WOODS Group has expanded, taking over Maralong Milling’s Westbrook facility and enabling Maralong’s parent company, PB Agrifood, to transfer operations to a centralised Toowoomba site.
PB Agrifood opened the Maralong Milling site at Westbrook in 2012 and set it up as a chana dhal mill in 2016 while in partnership with the now defunct Blue Ribbon Group.
Maralong Milling later transformed into a dual milling operation, processing soy flour and kibble and other gluten-free commodities, such as chickpeas, faba beans, mungbeans and sorghum.
Seeing the potential of a large warehouse space at Wilsonton in Toowoomba, PB Agrifood has opted to transfer the soy mill operations into the town site adjacent to its main facility.
The move has provided the perfect opportunity for the Goondiwindi-based and family-owned Woods Group to grow its operations and expand its booming pulse value-adding business.
Speaking at a site visit hosted by PB Agrifood as part of the Australian Pulse Conference last mnth, PBA Agrifood director Peter Brodie said the arrangement was ideal for both companies, and will enable each business to become more efficient.
“The biggest reason behind the move for us was to locate [Maralong Milling] so we could manage staff and the business much more easily,” Mr Brodie said.
He said the transaction was finalised on December 30, with the company given a month to move the soy factory into the new warehouse, which had been constructed by media company APN.
The move involved shifting Maralong Milling’s soy machinery from Westbrook to Toowoomba.
“We had three fitters and turners and they pulled it down in two and a half weeks and put it up in two and a half weeks.
“We had to make quite a bit of stock before we left Westbrook so that while the plant was down, we could still keep the orders up…it was a complicated and busy time.”
The opportunity to move into the Maralong Milling site came at a perfect time for the Woods Group.
“We were looking to expand when the opportunity came up,” Woods Group accumulation and sales manager Steve Foran said.
“Our Goondiwindi pulse mill was at capacity and this site doubled our capacity for valued-added pulses.
“The site doubled our capacity for chana dhal…without the cost of building a new factory.
“It also allows us to have a distribution point for our planting seed, and our stockfeed as well.”
As part of the transaction, PB Agrifood left the chickpea milling equipment at Westbrook, allowing Woods to kickstart operations immediately after takeover.
“We started from day one and brought our trucks in and started unloading.”
Mr Foran said the demand for Australian-grown pulses was growing.
He said destinations like the US, UK and central Europe were major consumers of Woods Group products, due to the size of its customer demand and plant based protein consumption.
“This is where the majority of our…exported value added pulses end up…mainly because they want Australian-origin, food-safe product.
“All of our pulses including chickpeas, faba beans and mungbeans are sourced locally, across the eastern seaboard.”
Both businesses have room to grow
Mr Brodie said the size and location of the new Maralong Milling site created new opportunities for the operation.
“The good thing about that facility is it is quite large; we can make other products as they come along as we see opportunities.
“[W]e can always expand and put another warehouse up if we need to, and another manufacturing plant.
“So, it’s given us some more options for the future.”
Likewise, Woods Group is also looking into bringing new products and processes to the Westbrook site.
The company is not averse to taking risks, building a microalgae “farm” in 2020 to produce a plant-based Omega-3 source for livestock, pets and humans.
Mr Foran said the plant-protein industry and further avenues for value-adding pulses were key areas of interest for the company.
“Definitely there’s a lot of thinking going around the plant-based protein market…including what else we can be doing in the value-add side of plant-based protein.”
Alongside Maralong Milling, the PB Agrifood Group owns HyFeed, an equine supplements and complete feed business, and stockfeed supplements, grain and loose-lick supplier PBA Feeds.
Mr Brodie said the businesses function as “one integrated operation”, enabling it to purchase all grades of grains and limiting waste from the value-adding process.
Woods Group also markets itself as a “paddock-to-plate” agribusiness, supplying raw grains, ingredients and finished products for human and animal consumption.
The company also has Woods Pastoral, which runs a number of properties in the northern grain-growing region, and Woods Transport that provides bulk and container freight services.
Alongside its Goondiwindi and Westbrook facilities, Woods Group also has sites at Dalby, Emerald and Brisbane, as well as in the Burdekin region of North Queensland.
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