Montague opens new packing and distribution facility

One of Australia's largest fruit growers, Montague, has opened a new, environmentally sustainable packing and distribution facility at Narre Warren North. The new 53,200 square metre fruit processing facility is part of a $54 million development at the site.

The facility will use state-of-the-art grading technology, with three grading systems in place, to ensure the highest quality of fruit to consumers.

"It's a vote of confidence in the outlook, and in the world's demand, for fresh, clean, healthy and natural produce from Australia," Montague managing director Scott Montague said.

Bill Montague planted the first orchard in the area, 73 years ago.

"We now grow almost five million trees, with a network of growers across six states of Australia," Mr Montague said.

Montagues export to Asia, Europe and North America.

"As leaders of our industry, we continue to explore innovative ways to ensure sustainable operations in our business practices," Montague Chief Innovation Officer Rowan Little said.

"Through this we can continue to deliver better quality and consistent fruit to our consumers."

The plant's stonefruit grader began operation in mid-January 2021, and all apple production lines have been fully operational from mid-March 2021. The site will see Montague's stonefruit packing capacity increase by 166 per cent, bringing in 58.3 million pieces of stonefruit each season.

Montague's annual apple packing capacity will increase by 75pc, delivering 227 million apples a year.

Mr Little said a key focus for the development was increasing environmental responsibility. Montague continue to incorporate sustainable and energy-efficient initiatives to lower CO2 emissions within their business operations, while reducing operational costs and resource inputs.

Mr Montague said the facility had been built to the highest environmental standards. "These include 100 kilowatts of solar panels, energy efficient thermal design and water collection, treatment and use," he said.

The facility's building design offers thermal efficiency and significant natural sunlight, which will reduce electricity needs. The facility utilises state-of-the-art equipment including vertical cold storage which is 60pc smaller than a traditional room, while still able to store 3000 bins. This, combined with the use of minimal lighting, reduces the building's energy footprint.

The room is primarily operated by machinery, which reduces manual handling and potential for human error.

In an Australian first, the pack house engages new technologies and equipment including an automated storage retrieval system, a heat exchanger, and JASA Sleever, a 100pc recyclable packaging solution to replace plastic punnets with paper and cardboard.

"It uses state-of-the-art fruit grading, sorting and packing technology, including a Refrigerated Automatic Storage and Retrieval System, which reduces the required building footprint by 60 per cent and incorporates a robotic crane system, for bin access," Mr Montague said.,

In addition, the facility will save three million litres of water annually. Water used during the packing process is recycled and filtered. All rainwater will be retained on-site with two 500,000 litre tanks for usage in amenities, cooling towers for the refrigeration systems, or orchard irrigation.

Wastewater will be treated on-site and used for irrigation purposes in landscaping and gardens.

The facility will also have solar panels, heat exchangers will heat water for wax drying tunnels and fruit waste will be transferred to pig and worm farms.

Source: Stock & Land

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