Riverland producers are welcoming the growing almond market with a new $6 million cracking and hulling plant, operated by Costa Bros in Swan Reach.
Costa Bros received a $1.85 million Regional Development and Innovation Fund grant to build the facility, which is expected to create more than 30 new full-time positions.
The RDIF is an initiative under the $265 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program (SARMS).
Regional Development Minister Geoff Brock said, “The goal of the RDIF is to fund projects that make long-term sustainable and strategic contributions to the region’s economic development through activities which leverage regional strengths,”
“The grant was to help Costa Bros to relocate and expand their operations in almond farming which would address a real need for that type of operation in the State’s growing almond industry,”
“The introduction of a hulling and shelling plant in the Swan Reach area will also contribute to the region’s economic diversification.” Mr Brock said.
Operations Manager Tony Costa said the plant will have a knock on affect for almond growers both in the Murray Mallee and interstate, increasing output over the next three years.
“Almond growers from South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria will see direct benefits to their bottom line from this development. Expanding hulling and shelling capacity in Swan Reach will significantly reduce transport costs for some producers and increase processing options for the industry.”
One of the company’s three directors, Phillip Costa, said the new plant opened to meet the pressures of the growing industry.
“Even though there are all these acres going in there wasn’t a lot of production to be able to meet demands”, Mr Costa said.
Predictions show the new facility is expected to increase the region’s hulling and shelling capacity from 8,000 to 22,000 tonnes a year.
“The site will be running for 20 hours a day and also takes into account for the future plantings going in, so there’s another 1,000 acres of new plantings going in over about five stages … about 2021 is when we’re looking at getting to the last stage,” Mr Costa said.
“We moved up here in 2007 and that was our toe in the water for the area and the people have been super supportive of us.
“As much as it’s [the facility] here for us, it’s here for the local people too, so we’re really appreciative of them.”
The directors of the Swan Reach Cracking and Hulling plant said everything on the site was fully recyclable.
The hulling and shelling plant is projected to produce up to 16,500 tonnes of almond hull and shell to be used in the animal feed industry, with the company looking at expanding to solar power energy sources.