MOREE-BASED business Pure Grain is stepping into the supply chain for malting barley this harvest, with the leg-up coming from an arrangement to provide 40,000 tonnes to the maltster for Australia’s biggest brewery.
It will see Pure Grain carting on average 770t per week of malting barley grown in northern New South Wales to Barrett Burston Malting’s Pinkenba plant in Brisbane.
The malt will then be taken to the Asahi Beverage’s Yatala plant, located between Brisbane and the Gold Coast, where it will be used to make Carlton United Breweries’ (CUB) beers Victoria Bitter, Carlton Dry and Pure Blonde.
Yatala’s brewing manager Garry Menz said the direct purchase agreement allowed Asahi Beverages to trace its grain back to the farm where it was grown.
“Our brewing team can now track the barley from NSW farms while ensuring farmers get additional payments that otherwise would have gone to the bulk handlers,” Mr Menz said in a statement.
“This allows Asahi to secure a direct supply chain for one of our most important ingredients and allows us to trace how the barley will perform.”
Previously, Asahi was buying malt made from barley out of the bulk-handling system, where it was comingled, and could potentially come from hundreds of different farms.
Asahi’s has now removed the bulk handlers from the barley supply chain, and said this is allowing brewers to work directly with growers to select and perfect barley types.
“We can monitor farming processes, and our long-term commitment gives each grower the confidence and financial security to invest in new technology and make improvements in farming sustainability and efficiency.
“This is collaborative cultivation and food production at its best.”
New for north
The arrangement marks a seismic shift in how malting barley in the northern region is handled, and is the latest business venture for Stuart and Lyndall Tighe.
“An agreement such as this creates a more resilient farming process,” Mr Tighe said.
“By working with Asahi Beverages, we can improve farming productivity and lessen environmental impacts.
“Grain growers get the additional income that would otherwise have gone to the bulk handlers and Asahi Beverages gets clear sight of the growing process to ensure only the best, sustainably grown barley is used.”
Pure Grain’s model is to charge its grower partners a percentage per tonne of grain sold through the business.
Its selling point to growers and consumers is a transparent value chain and logistics process that provides full traceability of grain.
Pure Grain’s chief sustainability officer Michael Clancy said the company expects to put at least another 40,000t of 2021-22 barley into other malthouses in eastern Australia on top of the 40,000t to be processed for Yatala.
“Asahi is a very, very important customer, but effectively we are supplying malt barley to all of the major maltsters in the eastern states’ port zones.”
While new crop barley from northern NSW is yet to hit the bins, Mr Clancy said sub-contractors engaged by Pure Grain have already started carting to Queensland’s only large-scale malthouse.
“There’s already old-crop going in to Pinkenba.”
Mr Clancy said the Pure Grain model will be outturning from accredited on-farm and private storages to keep up the supply to domestic malthouses in the first instance.
“When you talk about what Pure Grain does, it leverages off a change in the market through this increase in on-farm and private storages we’re seeing.
“We’re trying to provide an avenue where they can get some return on that investment.”
Asahi’s other mainland brewery is located at Abbotsford in Melbourne, and more than 90pc of the malt it uses comes from barley purchased direct from Australian farmers.
Asahi has said it has plans to extend the Yatala model to its smaller sites including the Cascade Brewery in Hobart.
Feed and other markets in sights
Malting specifications can be hard to hit when dry finishes lift protein to unacceptably high levels, or rain at harvest affects grain quality.
With this in mind, Mr Clancy said Pure Grain was interested in supplying consumers with barley from varieties which were not accredited for malting, and for accredited varieties which did not make specs.
“That includes feedlots and feedmills.
“We already have growers; it’s now about finding the markets.”
Mr Clancy said Pure Grain’s responsibilities within the supply chain include assessing farming protocols, and storage and handling sites, as well as safety throughout the process from growing to delivery to consumer.
“We’re trying to decommoditise a commodity, and our selling point for the grain we handle becomes the information and data that comes with that.”
Next step in specialisation
Pure Grain is another iteration of the Tighes’ understanding of the supply chain built from farming in north-west NSW, and developing Boolah Commodity Management (BCM) as a hub for distributing grain shipped from southern Australian ports to Brisbane from early 2018 to August 2020.
BCM has been mothballed, but Boolah Farms continues to lease some sites occupied by the company which were crucial in allowing consumers in southern Queensland to weather the drought which decimated the region’s own grain production.
It also has two storage sites north of Moree – Roburn at Milguy and Belahna west of the Newell Highway – that are available to Pure Grain.
“The collaboration we see from Barrett Burston Malt and Asahi to make the supply chain sustainable is the future of this industry,” Mr Tighe said.
“We are creating a more resilient farming process by working with our partners to improve farming productivity, lessen environmental impacts, and have a positive impact on regional communities.”
Maltsters and brewers globally have been leaders in the agricultural value-add spaces setting and working towards sustainability targets.
Mr Clancy said that meshed well with Pure Grain’s grower partners.
“In terms of farming protocols, it’s about growing the best possible product, and data underpinning factors like crop water use, diesel burn, and herbicide use.
“For storage and handling, that means things like fumigation schedules, and workplace health and safety.”
Pure Grain is accredited with International Sustainability and Carbon Certification, and is in the process of signing up to Sustainable Grains Australia.
It has also been benchmarked against the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) goal via an external audit as it looks to expand its customer base outside Australia.
“We are looking to the export market there is no doubt.”
Mr Clancy said Pure Grain’s grower partners have been identified through being able to align with sustainability requirements held by the company, and existing and potential markets.
Grower partners in the wider Moree district include Byron Birch of Australis Farm Leasing, corporate farmers Lawson Grains and Viridis Ag, and Andrew Ostwald at North Star.
“Pure Grain’s approach to assisting us to enter new markets and also refine farm management practices is what sets them apart,” Mr Ostwald said.
Pure Grain is looking to secure multi-year agreements with other brewers and maltsters which will see barley sourced from across all states of Australia.
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