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$2m of hi-tech gear for Waitane plant

DIANE BISHOP
Last updated 05:00 13/12/2012
Keith Cooper and Mike Harris
DIANE BISHOP/Fairfax NZ

SEEING IT THROUGH: Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper looks at the new X-ray technology with Waitane plant manager Mike Harris.

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Silver Fern Farms has injected more than $2 million into X-ray and yield-management technology at its Waitane plant, near Gore.

In doing so the company has signalled its confidence in the sheep meat industry in Eastern Southland despite its main rival, Alliance Group, transferring sheep and lamb processing from nearby Mataura to Lorneville this season.

Silver Fern Farms chief executive Keith Cooper was "absolutely confident" the investment in Waitane would pay off, with new suppliers signing up this season.

"There's a lot more lambs out there.

"We've also got clear indications that suppliers are supporting our strategy," Mr Cooper said.

About 100 suppliers attended Waitane's open day yesterday, which showcased the $2 million investment the company had made in X-ray and yield- management technology.

Mr Cooper said X-ray grading would directly benefit Southland suppliers by giving them the information to produce and deliver lambs that best suited customer requirements.

Depending on carcass specification, the technology had the potential to add $2 to $5 a lamb, he said.

Mr Cooper said the X-ray grading system also integrated with other technologies introduced as part of the Waitane upgrade, including radio-frequency identification tag readers stationed throughout the plant for data collection. The Waitane plant employs about 275 staff at the peak of the processing season and processes lamb, mutton, bobby veal and goat.

Mr Cooper said the staff were "immensely proud" of the recent technology enhancements at the plant, which serves suppliers from Waipahi to Wyndham and Te Anau to Bluff.

As part of Silver Fern Farms' commitment to the wider Gore community, chairman Eoin Garden presented a $10,000 donation to the Gore fire brigade.

The funds would be used to support an initiative already under way to educate people about the risks of fires while cooking and ways to prevent and extinguish them should they occur.

Silver Fern Farms' contribution will enable the brigade to complete the fit-out of a mobile kitchen demonstration trailer, which was due for completion in March.

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- The Southland Times

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