Every time you drink a New Zealand brewed beer, there's a high chance the malt came from Marton.
The Rangitikei town is home to New Zealand's largest malting factory, Marton Maltings, which is owned by Malteurop - the world's leading malt producer.
The Malteurop Group has a presence in North America, Oceania, Asia and 13 European countries, with 24 industrial sites and 830 employees spread across the world.
The company owns three malt and barley facilities in New Zealand. Its Marton factory, which employs 12 staff, is the production site where it transforms barley into malt. In Ashburton, there is a facility for barley and malt handling. In Irwell, there is a barley breeding facility, where new varieties are bred for export.
The factory, located on Wings Line, was built in 1979 by The Canterbury Malting Company. This company was then owned by New Zealand's two largest brewing companies - DB and Lion Nathan.
The two breweries struggled to manage the malting factory, so it sold the business to the International Malting Company - a French company - in 2000. Six years later, International Maltings decided to sell the malt production facilities to Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world's major grain traders. But as malt wasn't the company's core business, the malting plants in Australia and New Zealand were sold in 2008 to Malteurop.
Malteurop operations manager Tiago Cabral, who lives in Feilding, said the plant was built in Marton because of its proximity to a main gas pipeline and State Highway 1. It was also because it was a large barley growing region.
About 30 per cent of the barley used by the Marton factory is grown in the Manawatu, Rangitikei and Hawke's Bay regions. The other 70 per cent comes from the Canterbury plains.
Cabral said the malting process had been the same for thousands of years, though advances in science and technology have helped to improve the way the grain is controlled.
"The aim of the malting process is to create and activate enzymes that will work either during the malting process or in brewing," he said.
"Three major steps are the basis of the malting process - steeping, germination and kilning. The process uses a vast amount of gas for the kiln phase, which is why the factory was built next to a gas pipeline."
During the steeping process, the barley grain is soaked in water to increase moisture and to start germination. The process takes about two days, but the timing can vary depending on the barley variety and season.
Then germination, under controlled conditions, takes place. Grain moisture and temperature are the two main factors that influence the quality of the malt being produced, and the germination process takes about four and a half days.
The final stage is kilning, which takes one and a half days. During kilning, colour and aroma are formed and different types of malt will have different kiln processes.
Usually, pilsen malt is lighter so it will be kilned at a lower temperature than Munich malt, which has a stronger colour.
Every year the Marton factory churns out 42,000 tonnes of malt and uses 51,000 tonnes of barley. The factory operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, stopping only for maintenance.
- Manawatu Standard