Minister Steven Joyce opens New Zealand Food Innovation Waikato

Economic Development and Science and Innovation Minister, Steven Joyce, joined 100 invited guests today at the Waikato Innovation Park to officially open its new spray dryer facility,

New Zealand Food Innovation Waikato. The $11 million product development spray dryer facility is the only one of its type in New Zealand and is the Waikato component of the Government-sponsored New Zealand Food Innovation Network. Finance for the spray dryer came from Innovation Waikato Ltd debt and a Government grant of $3.95 million. Its capacity is one-half tonne/hour, making it one of the smallest commercial spray dryers in the world.

Construction of the facility was completed in late April 2012 and took just eight months to take it from a bare paddock to a fully operational plant. Commissioning and testing was completed over the past month, with the first fresh milk converted to powder on 25 May. Fifteen Waikato companies have contributed to the project. NDA built the spray dryer and Hendl and Murray built the baghouse – the two largest components of the facility. Other local companies contributing to the spray dryer include: Apollo Projects, Bedfords, Clearwater, Tetra Pak, HPS, Ideal Construction, Intelectric, Brick Block Waikato, Resitech, GMR Holmac, Emersons, Aurora and civil works consultant, Sam Pemberton. Auckland company, Technopak, developed the packing line inside the plant.

The packing line is the first of its type in the world and is a showcase for the new technology’s efficiency, compactness and speed. Hamilton-based Dairy Goat Co-operative has committed to utilising the plant for part of the dairy season and up to eight new Dairy Goat Co-op staff will work on site. The company is using the dryer facility as extra capacity to meet expansion requirements.

NZ Food Innovation Waikato is now looking for commitments from additional companies that want to research and develop new spray dried food products in the pilot plant. Derek Fairweather, CEO of NZ Food Innovation Waikato and the Waikato Innovation Park, says his team is talking with specialty milk producers as well as companies looking to spray dry fruit and vegetable extracts. “Our message to the market now is that we are open for business. This unique facility offers potential for specialty milk producers, in particular, to innovate. The facility creates opportunity for companies who are ready to scale up a new spray-dried product to commercial production,” says Mr Fairweather. The long-term strategy for the plant is to expand the spray dryer’s capability to manufacture infant formula.

Waikato Innovation Park Spray Dryer – At a glance:

  • Only independent product development dryer in NZ
  • $11 million project
  • Capacity of one-half tonne/hour
  • Eight months to complete construction
  • Initial focus on manufacturing whole milk powders
  • Long-term, the dryer will manufacture infant formula and fruit and vegetable powders
  • The dryer is the Waikato component of the NZ Food Innovation Network
  • Other NZ Food Innovation Network centres: Manukau, Palmerston North and Christchurch