• Open for business: OjiFS Mildura’s Matt Harris and plant manager David Smith in the new plant.
    Open for business: OjiFS Mildura’s Matt Harris and plant manager David Smith in the new plant.

The new highly specified 4500sqm OjiFS packaging plant in Mildura is open, with the company now offering its innovative wax-free PowerPly cartons to the local market.

The new plant consolidates the two previous OjiFS Mildura sites into one, and has three separate sheds on the site. OjiFS more than doubled down on its commitment to the Sunraysia region, with its new plant covering 1.2 hectares.

OjiFS national sales and marketing manager Philip Nuttall said the company had been operating in the area for 10 years, with continued growth leading to its operations spreading across three sites.

Nuttall said, “Our high tech factory in Yatala, south of Brisbane, is producing the strongest boxes ever brought to the market and producers are responding. Our PowerPly cartons are able to replace wax cartons for many crops especially table grapes, citrus and avocados.

“This plant means we can bring those boxes to the region in quantities never before achievable, allowing southern farmers to take advantage of this new technology.

“Worldwide there is a move towards more sustainable packaging, you just have to look at what has happened around our use of plastic bags. Many countries, in particular Japan, are moving away from waxed boxes in the push to be able to recycle and become more sustainable, so we have this technology and solution right now.”

OjiFS Mildura site manager David Smith says the site not only allowed growers to take advantage of new products but also be able to source boxes in greater volumes than previously.

“We are here to sell boxes, so the major benefit of having space for fully erected boxes is growers can always go and see the products and we have it in stock for when they need it,” Smith said.

“With our hand direct products, we sell a minimum of 45,000 up to 70,000 a week. Erected trays range, depending on local demand for domestic markets, we ship anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 a week.

“We can accommodate more trucks at one time than previously. Stock comes from both our Melbourne and Queensland plants, so now we can have three doubles unloading and still be able to load two trucks at the same time.

“Feedback from growers has been positive: they see it as a great investment in the industry and the region.”

Grape producer Barry Hancock with MC Bin Supplies Marco Cielo and OjiFS Matt Harris.
Grape producer Barry Hancock with Marco Cielo, MC Bin Supplies, and Matt Harris from OjiFS.

Primary producers in Mildura grow 80 per cent of Australia's dried fruit, with 90 per cent of citrus and 80 per cent of table grapes grown in the area and exported, along with avocados and niche fruits like figs and pomegranates.

For local producer Barry Hancock at B&B Farms, the move away from wax came into its own during the conditions of the exceptionally hot 2018/2019 summer.

B&B Farms exports table grapes to various parts of the Asian market, including Indonesia and Japan. Hancock said the box was critical to produce arriving at its best over a two or three week journey.

“We all thought wax was the answer years ago with cool room storage,” he said. “When the weather hots up it becomes a real mess in the shed: the waxy stuff gets everywhere on the floors, on your hands. Now we don’t have to put up with that mess. The new box is definitely the way to go.

“Obviously if you store for a period of time there is moisture in the core coming out of the fruit so you have to have a hardy box to stand up to that atmosphere. It’s also got to withhold the weight that is stacked on it: you have got a tonne in the pallet, so the bottom box has to be well made.

“It is good to see developments in this area, it was only a couple of years ago we were using staples to hand direct every base and lid.

“Labour is a huge cost in farming, now we have strength in the box along with the erectable lid, saving us time, and therefore money, in the field and in the shed. We don’t have to pull someone out from picking to erect boxes. Oji has come through in strength and that is what we were looking for," he said.

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