By Jen Barwick
B.-d Farm Paris Creek are no strangers to winning awards, as the trophy-laden shelves and covered walls in the front entrance to their Adelaide Hills factory clearly demonstrates.
But it’s the two environmental accolades that co-owner and managing director Ulli Spranz recently held aloft to show to a visiting group of fellow South Australian food and beverage producers.
The two national awards recognise the biodynamic dairy and cheese producers’ hard earned eco-friendly credentials.
Ulli and husband Helmut accepted the Endeavour Awards Environmental Solution of the Year and the 2015 PACE Zenith Award for Food and Beverage earlier this year – beating out some rather impressive competition.
“We were up against some large manufacturing and technology companies and our operation was chosen… it’s hard not be a little proud of what we have achieved here,” Ulli said.
It’s not the first time the passionate producers have earned acclaim for their sustainability practices – last year they also won the South Australian Food Industry Award for Sustainability (for a company with over 15 employees).
“Our company has grown very much in a step-by-step way … we started a biodynamic dairy farm here in Meadows in 1998 and then we saw an opportunity to make our own yoghurt,” she said.
In 2001, Ulli and Helmut took the big step to build their own factory to produce their yogurt and milks, then quark (a fresh creamy-crumbly cheese made from curdling and then straining soured milk).
In 2006, they expanded their factory to produce French-style soft cheeses and European-style hard cheeses. As their factory grew so did their demand for production, so they had to expand their herd size or begin buying in milk from other suppliers.
Since 2001, they’ve been helping local dairies convert from traditional operations to bio-dynamic farming. They also pay the farmers a premium price for the milk they supply – up to 30% more than other larger buyers pay – and created a bonus system for their long-time suppliers.
“Conversion to bio-dynamic farming can take up to three years but we’re now helping convert around one property every year,” Ulli said.
“As a result, with more supply and our larger factory we were able to double our processing capacity last year… and we could double it again if we had the supply.”
While growing in size, the B.-d Farm Paris Creek team have worked hard to limit their environmental impacts.
“In conjunction with our new processing plant we decided to completely overhaul our electricity and gas usage – and the first step was to review what we use and then install solar,” she said.
To help them they applied and got a Clean Energy Grant from the Clean Technology Food and Foundry Investment Program.
“We did an audit of our usage so we could see exactly where and how we were using electricity and gas. We didn’t want to just replace all our existing systems… it was about initially concentrating just on the areas where the most efficient savings could be made,” she said.
It worked. In 12 months the company reduced its power bills by 33%, at the same as increasing production by 20% and reducing processing times by 30%.
“We’ve been officially recognised as one of the most energy-efficient manufacturing plants in Australia,” Ulli said.
The company also recycles the large amounts of water it uses on the property and on-sells its by-product whey as an organic fertiliser to local wineries and fertiliser operations.
It’s also continuing to grow, with the next stage of development about to begin – expanding their current operations again to include a larger cheese and dairy processing plant, storage and coolrooms.
B.-d Farm Paris Creek cheese will feature at CheeseFest this weekend in Rymill Park in Adelaide.