Plenty Foods | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
Plenty Foods (formerly Proteco Oils) is Australia’s leading specialist manufacturer of high- quality cold pressed oils. Producing a diverse range using state-of-the-art press and filtration technology, the company has gained a reputation for supply of consistent quality products.
Plenty Foods uses the edible kernel rejects from tree nut harvests for its range of cold pressed oils, which typically represents only a percentage or two of the total crop size. Achieving a greater yield means recovering a wider range of material generated through shelling and sorting, a process made difficult as conventional on-market machinery is designed for crops like sunflowers rather than tree nuts.
Having processed oils for over 30 years, the overarching Plenty Foods objective is to consistently improve. The team saw that there was opportunity to lessen the food waste stream and divert recovered material from low-value formats, such as animal feed, into value-added products — a process that would additionally carry benefit through the supply chain and add value to the product at a grower level.
In support of this goal, Plenty Foods embarked on a project to develop a processing solution that could handle the tolerance ranges of tree nut feed stock and enable a higher rate of recovery from the waste stream. While some improvements had been made over a few years, they knew there was potential for even greater gains.
The company had participated in some FIAL information sessions and made contact to see if there was any potential for collaboration. The project’s multiple ambitions — including waste stream reduction, product value improvements and energy efficiency gains — ticked a lot of boxes.
The solution utilised key equipment pieces sourced from Europe and modified to suit tree nut products. It incorporates infield monitoring technology that was developed locally in Queensland, which provides real-time monitoring of the process and facilitates a faster response to changes in feed-stock, something that operators could not easily achieve in previous processing methods. By embedding technology into the system, operations staff are effectively moved from the factory floor into a control room setting, creating a more highly skilled workforce and safer workplace environment.
Not only has the innovation achieved the key goal of greater recovery of a wider range of reject materials, it also uses less heat, realising around 18% energy savings for the same amount of work.
The project illustrates how innovation in any industry delivers broader advantage. In the case of Plenty Foods processing innovation and improvements, Managing Director Josh Gadischke says the benefit flows through the industry.
“The tree nut oil industry is niche, but is becoming more mainstream. We want to maintain our technology edge so that Australia is recognised as being at the forefront. When new technology becomes available and we implement its efficient use, then everyone through the supply chain benefits,” he said.