Food Waikato, which is located at Waikato Innovation Park, currently has one open access development spray dryer, which came online five years ago and is now running at capacity. According to Gordon, the existing dryer processes about 900,000 lts of sheep milk each year and that is expected to double in the 2019/2020 season.
“The existing dryer has more than delivered on its original promises and is now sitting at capacity with 308 days of production in the year to June 2017, and achieving $53 million of exports in that year. We now need to be as proactive as possible and get ahead of this rapidly increasing demand from the sheep milk industry,” Gordon said.
Sheep milk and products have grown in popularity as the milk reportedly is higher in protein and calcium than milk from cows or goats and is easier to digest.
The second drying facility will have 2.4 times the capacity of the existing dryer and will have increased levels of biosecurity that will allow it to produce high-grade infant formula and other products. It is projected to deliver $129m in exports a year, Gordon said.
Food Waikato is owned by Hamilton City Council and Callaghan Innovation, and both parties have been informed of the plans, he said.
Food Waikato will contribute about $1.4m of the $45m cost, with debt and equity from dryer users making up the balance. Hamilton City Council and Callaghan Innovation are not being asked to contribute but are being informed as stakeholders.