Wineries plan to turn grape waste into profit

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 16:00 03/06/2013

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A group of eight large Marlborough wine companies has committed to exploratory work to turn thousands of tonnes of vineyard waste into a valuable new product.

On average, about 40,000 tonnes of grape marc is generated by the Marlborough wine industry each year, just over half of it coming through the wine production facilities of the eight companies at the region's two industrial estates at Riverlands and Cloudy Bay.

As a first step, they will look at converting the pulpy residue left after the juice has been pressed from grapes into an enriched compost product, but ultimately the hope is that scientific expertise can find new, commercially viable uses for it.

A new entity, Grape Marc Ltd, is to be set up by the wineries who have formally expressed interest in working together on the project.

Grape Marc Ltd spokesperson Eric Hughes, the Marlborough winery manager for Brancott Estate, said the group was looking for ways to add value to what was essentially a waste product.

"While large quantities of it already do get recycled as compost, we are keen to explore ways of finding uses for grape marc that will generate greater returns."

The collective cost of disposing of grape marc is more than half a million dollars each year for the eight wineries. If that cost could be cut and the waste material re-used, then that was an environmentally and economically preferable option.

"If we can apply scientific innovation and turn the waste into a high-value product which we can produce on a commercial scale, then that will be even better."

The work will be done under the umbrella of the Food and Beverage Cluster formed in association with the Marlborough Research Centre and Massey University's Riddet Institute to advance the future of bio-food production in Marlborough.

The Research Centre and Riddet Institute are encouraging Marlborough businesses to look at ways of extracting maximum value from the region's natural products and materials by applying more research and investment.

The Marlborough District Council facilitated the project and is to help the wineries seek financial support from the Ministry for the Environment's Waste Minimisation Fund.

The environmental effects of current grape marc disposal practices in Marlborough are monitored by the council and assets and services committee chairman Graeme Taylor says he is anxious to avoid significant increase in the quantities in landfill.

"This co-operation between industry, the Research Centre and the council is exactly what we've been talking about with our ‘Smart and Connected' approach to economic development."

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Wineries signed up to become part of the new entity are Constellation, NZ Wineries, Giesen Wines, VinLink Marlborough, Indevin, Pernod Ricard, Spring Creek Vintners and Mt Riley.

- The Marlborough Express

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