Manufacturing news briefs — stories you might have missed

a2 Milk Company grows despite decline in China market

The a2 Milk Company, which pioneered the use of a2 proteins in milk as a healthy alternative, has reported positive results for 1H24. Revenue was up 3.7 percent to $812.1 million and EBITDA profit up five percent to $113.2 million despite a double-digit decline in the China infant milk formula market. a2 achieved a top-5 China IMF market position supported by record levels of marketing. During the half the company launched new China label products and stabilised its English label sales after a period of decline.

Starpharma appears to turn its back on US market for VivaGel

Biotechnology company Starpharma will not pursue further scientific study of its VivaGel product which was primarily developed for bacterial vaginosis (BV), the most common vaginal infection worldwide. VivaGel is registered for sale in 45 countries and supported by extensive scientific study. However the US Food and Drug Administration had demanded extra study be undertaken to support the clinical benefit of the product before it can be registered in the United States. Following the failure of a formal dispute process, Starpharma told investors it was not planning to pursue additional clinical studies. However the company’s US application for approval remains in place.

Australian Rare Earths receives R&D tax inventive

Australian Rare Earths has received a R&D tax incentive from the federal government for the work it is undertaking developing the Koppamurra rare earth project in South Australia. The project, in the south east of the state adjoining western Victoria, is one of the largest ionic clay-hosted rare earth provinces in Australia, with estimated reserves of 186 million tonnes. The company is undertaking extensive metallurgical research and process development to optimise rare earth extraction.

Bunbury offshore wind zone consultations open

Consultations opened on Tuesday on the proposed Bunbury offshore wind zone, 20 kilometres off the coast of Western Australia,  which the federal government said could potentially unlock “thousands of renewable energy jobs and cleaner, cheaper energy for the resources heavy state.”  The Commonwealth is seeking feedback on a proposed area, which is 7,674 square kilometres and at least 20 kilometres offshore at its closest point off Cape Naturaliste and Bunbury and 36 kilometres from Busselton. The proposed Bunbury zone “is an ideal location for offshore electricity generation because of the high speed winds in the Indian Ocean, its proximity to large energy users and could enable up to 20GW of offshore wind to be developed.” Submissions can be made until May 3, with community information sessions held from March 19 to 21 for community members to ask questions and provide feedback. More information is available here.

SEMMA members “seething” at Victorian government’s “gouging” of manufacturers

The South East Melbourne Manufacturers Alliance (SEMMA) has released a statement saying that it is “seething at the unjustified cash grab by the Victorian state government” through the land tax on local manufacturers. According to the group, a survey of its members found 100 per cent of respondents said they were facing “extreme increases in Land Tax from last year.” The representative body for manufacturers in the city’s southeast said one member in Dandenong had a land value of $3.75 million in 2023 with a land tax of $47,100, with these figures increasing to $4.3 million and $66,100 the year after. Others saw land tax increases of 50 per cent and above. SEMMA CEO Honi Walker said, “There is no justification for these increases in Land Value. How can the state government substantiate exorbitant increases of 50% and above in Land Value within twelve months and then charge Land Tax on that new value? Manufacturers are being gouged by the state government… SEMMA is calling for an enquiry into the process of calculation of Land Value and Land Tax on Victorian manufacturers.” The full comments can be read here.

Construction starts on one of Queensland’s biggest batteries

The Queensland government marked the start of construction on one of Queensland’s biggest batteries on Monday. In a partnership with Tesla and Yurika, state-owned CleanCo will deliver the $330 million battery in Swanbank. The government described the battery as set to be “a pivotal component for the Swanbank Clean Energy Hub and Queensland’s clean energy future” and will be constructed on the site of the former Swanbank B coal-fired power station. The battery will have capacity of 250 megawatt/500 megawatt hour, and “can store enough energy to power more than two-thirds of Ipswich for two hours each night when demand rises as the sun sets.” The storage system is set to be delivered this year and the CleanCo site “energised by mid-2025, adding significant storage capacity to Queensland’s electricity network.”

New WA food tech centre to launch

A new Sustainable Innovative Food Technologies Centre located in Peel Business Park at Nambeelup in Western Australia will officially launch on Friday. The state government supported the SIFT centre, located  within the Food Innovation Precinct of WA (FIPWA), through $12.2 million in funding from the department of primary industries. According to a statement, the facility “is fitted out with the latest in food and beverage manufacturing equipment including a high-pressure processing unit – which is one of only two in the State – used to cold pasteurise foods”, and which “will help extend the shelf life of products while preserving natural nutrition and flavour.” It is open to all WA food and beverage businesses seeking “a low-risk environment to scale up production by offering common use of manufacturing equipment at a subsidised rate.” More information is available at this link. Food minister Jackie Jarvis said, “The SIFT Centre is projected to grow the State’s local value-added industry, create more than 150 direct jobs, and inject around $100 million into the economy. I encourage small business owners looking to expand production to visit FIPWA and investigate the grants on offer.”

Harvest B achieves first US export

Alternative protein company Harvest B has announced what it called a special milestone: “our first-ever shipment of Harvest B Proteins to the United States!” The company thanked partners helping with the complexities of FDA approval and market launch., and said it was the resultt of months of relentless effort and dedication. “Your expertise and support have been invaluable in this journey so far,” it said on Linkedin. “Last but not least, a big shout out goes to our Foundry team. Your hard work, and GSD attitude have been the driving force behind making this vision a reality!”

Priestley’s Gourmet Delights names new CEO

Sweet and savoury food supplier and manufacturer Priestley’s Gourmet Delights has announced the appointment of Xanny Christophersen (pictured) as its new Managing Director and CEO. In a statement on Friday, the company said Christophersen joined in 2011 and was appointed COO in 2017, where “she was responsible for manufacturing, supply chain (including raw materials, warehousing, and distribution), and, until recently, sales, marketing, and new product development.” Christophersen said: “The cake business is in my blood. As the niece of the founder, Marilyn Jones, I remember helping her sell cakes from the boot of her car in the early years of Priestley’s. It’s a privilege to step into the CEO role, ensuring the continuity of the family business and its  focus on high-quality natural local ingredients… I look forward to leading the company through this period of expansion.”

MSQ opens consultation for training plan 

Manufacturing Skills Queensland (MSQ) has opened consultation the state’s first training plan for the manufacturing industry, to be released this year. According to a statement from the organisation, the annual training plan will be “a significant investment to support industry to address critical skills and workforce challenges through targeted investment and training programs” and comes after the release of a discussion paper (accessible here) to guide the conversation. Consultation will focus on five key themes: Attraction and engagement; Transformation and leadership; Training, skills, and qualifications; The future of trades; and Diversity in manufacturing. Face-to-face sessions for manufacturers will run across Queensland and begin on February 27. Consultation will close on April 2. More information on consultations can be seen here.

Picture: Xanny Christophersen (supplied)

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