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    POSITIVE CHANGE: Australian Plant Proteins production assistant Peter Scott shows off the UniBox system, which has significantly improved day-to-day productivity, cost-efficiency and safety at the Horsham site. Picture: PAUL CARRACHER

AgLife: Protein company tapping into innovation

By Dean Lawson

Horsham manufacturer Australian Plant Proteins has continued its exploration into production innovation and efficiency by changing the way it stores and transports its products.

The company, producing and supplying plant-protein isolates from Wimmera-grown pulses such as faba beans and lentils to a growing national and international market, has changed from one-use bulk bags to a new reusable product.

Australian Plant Proteins, APP, is managing its raw materials with a product called UniBox, a food-grade product for handling ‘flowable’ products such as grain, seeds and granules.

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Operations manager Puneet Chawla said the UniBox system had significantly improved day-to-day productivity, cost-efficiency and safety at the Horsham site.

“You could say that it ticks all the boxes for us. We’ve been using UniBox at Horsham for several months now, and the improvements have been immediate,” he said.

The company estimates the new system is saving $30 per tonne of processed beans, or about $250,000 a year.

“We currently process 12 tonne of faba beans and lentils per day, with more capacity due online next year which will see us processing more than 30 tonnes per day,” Mr Chawla said.

“Until now we have been using bulk bags, which of course are only single use and have challenges with storage space, the risk of tipping or tearing, as well as potential issues with spoilage and rodents.

“The UniBox system has solved all of these problems, as well as delivering significant time and cost savings.”

Imported and marketed in Australia by United Ag, UniBox units can handle up to 1200-kilogram loads.

United Ag director Tim McFarlane said heavy-duty construction made the units a ‘smart, reusable alternative’ to bulk bags.

“The UniBox is made from high-density polyethylene and meets food-grade standards with the option of a stainless-steel bottom plate,” he said

“They seal completely with a secure lid, to give good protection against infestation, contaminants or spoilage.”
Designed for safe, one-person operation, the UniBox interior is smooth and sloped with a generous centre exit to quickly and completely empty contents. The flow out can be controlled for metering or mixing.

The containers stack and nest for efficient warehousing and freight, with a semi-load holding 18 full UniBox units.

Mr Chawla said APP used the boxes to move and store raw grain before  processing, rotating its fleet every 1.5 days with suppliers.

“We send clean, empty ones across to them, which they then fill and return to us for processing,” he said.

“Our first processing step is washing the beans, which requires them to be loaded into a hopper system.

“When we were using bulk bags, it took 17 minutes to empty each one, but the UniBox decants the same volume in eight. It’s better than half the time, which is a lot when you add that up over a week or month.”

Safety benefits

Mr Chawla said forklift drivers also preferred the new UniBox system.

“Our drivers feel much more comfortable moving them around,” he said.

“Instead of lifting a bulk bag from the top and holding it up high, these are lifted at the bottom so feel much more stable for the driver.

“We can store three tonnes of product in the space we used to only be able to store one tonne.”

Mr Chawla said the company had another 40 boxes on order and the payback on investment would be in months, not years.

“We can’t wait for them to arrive. All round, they are a great solution for our business. We won’t be going back to the bulk bags, that’s for sure,” he said.

The entire March 31, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!

The entire March 31, 2021 edition of AgLife is available online. READ IT HERE!