Ideally located “in the heart of the Wimmera grain growing region,” Minyip-based export company Wimpak has strived to be the best at their craft. Established in 1998 by a group of local farmers – and now serviced by 12 permanent staff members – the vision was “to build a local grain packing facility specialising in pulse type grains” that would provide thorough cleaning and packing services to North West Victoria; its home-grown commitment is something to be recognised, as it is a quality that separates Wimpak from the rest.
According to the company’s Director, Geoff Rethus, “Unlike many of its competitors in the Wimmera-Mallee region, Wimpak is still 100 percent owned by members of the local farming community, with profits being re-invested into the company to improve efficiencies and continue our growth.”
Rethus was one of 10 unit holders present at the conception of Wimpak, and has held several executive positions throughout that time. After almost 20 years of service, increased preparation for growth has been essential to the company’s success. Storage has increased from 500 tonnes to 13,000 tonnes, and the addition of 42 silos and a shed have allowed for “plenty of segregations of product.” This expansion has proven beneficial over the last six years, especially, with an increase in turnover by 80.76 percent and up to $35 million annually.
One of the biggest milestones for Wimpak has been the restructure of both management and executive structures, with different segments of the business being managed by five key members. “This has ensued a very professionally run company with shared responsibilities,” says Rethus. “The executive also now includes professionals from outside the company to provide specialist skills in areas that are required from time to time. As a result, the workplace is very harmonious to work.”
Introduction of new equipment in 2014 has also assisted the prosperity of Wimpak in its future endeavours. The goal was to double production, allowing double the amount of grains to be cleaned per hour. To meet this goal, the company started from the bottom to design and build a new processing plant to specifically meet their needs; it is currently the only plant of its kind in Australia, which helped meet industry demands in the region’s most recent harvest. Other additions to the facility include a larger weighbridge and site office, a drive-over hopper, and a browntree bag loader to eliminate the need for manual handling of product.
This improved production facility is “a huge step forward in technology” for not only Wimpak, but the grain cleaning industry as a whole. A single touch-screen controls all operations and, from there, data can be synced to an iPad or mobile device in order to monitor plant production down to the individual weight of each bag; this new technology will provide Wimpak with an advantage both locally and internationally.
The purpose of seed and grain cleaning is to add value to a product, and this is thoroughly recognised by the staff at Wimpak; they have also gained the ability to clean grains that exceed Australian Pulse Standards, which allows competitive prices to be placed by growers on their refurbished product.
“Establishing and maintaining personal relationships with our growers is a high priority,” says Rethus. “In addition to this, Wimpak is constantly expanding its broader sourcing area; originally focused on grains produced in the Minyip/Murtoa area, we now accumulate from the Northern Mallee to the Southern Wimmera and from the SA Border to Central Victoria.”
The company’s unwavering focus on locality is demonstrated annually through their attendance at local field days and grower information events; their support of a variety of local football/netball, golf, and other field and game clubs – which also included a major sponsorship for the Minyip Primary School Netball court upgrade; and their presence as members of the Grain Industry Association of Victoria (GIAV), Grain Trade Australia (GTA), Pulse Australia and Pulse Victoria – all of which “provide a great networking opportunity with other key stakeholders” in the industry.
Communication with the company’s own stakeholders is also a commitment. This includes relaying peak production times, price updates, latest news and events through radio advertising and text messaging, and distribution of a quarterly newsletter to all shareholders in the business.
Wimpak is able to provide their services towards a variety of pulse grains, including beans, chickpeas, lentils, lupins, Field peas, safflower, vetch and fenugreek; cereals such as wheat, barley and oats are also available for the local stockfeed markets. All products are either bagged or bulked, farmer or machine dressed, and gravity graded. Each round of product is shipped to Melbourne via rail by Wimmera Container Lines.
“We increase demand by expanding Wimpak’s network of exporters/buyers. By building relationships and dealing with only reputable exporters, Wimpak is able to minimise risks involved with trading commodities and can provide competitive market options for growers and guarantee timely payment.”
Currently, Wimpak products are exported directly from Melbourne to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Indian Subcontinent, and the United States. The focus of exports is mostly pulse grains, which are offered on a Delivered Container Terminal (DCT) basis; they are packed in 20’ containers and transhipped between locations – before and after which they are inspected and documented by DAFF Authorised Officers to ensure that they meet requirements for DA Biosecurity.
Safe product handling procedures at home is also a key practice to ensure food security. Along with the implementation of their browntree bag loader Wimpak has also introduced an “efficient and streamlined work health and safety (WHS)” program; this program provides specific solutions for compliance activities in order to make sure the company is heeding to Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) legislative requirements.
Sustainability is another key effort that Wimpak works hard to adhere to. The new LMC cleaner has proven to be 20 percent more efficient than the previous cleaning method, heeding more product with the same amount of energy usage; to improve the efficiency of quantity measurement, container scales have now been mounted onto trailers to provide a more accurate volume. LED lights have been installed for flood lighting after dark – with future installation of solar panels in the works – and a new hammer mill also allows for usage of products that would otherwise be wasted.
“We will now be utilising what were previously waste products (offal) from our cleaning activities and processing this waste through the hammer mill in order to produce pollard,” says Rethus. “Pollard will be sold to stock feed mills that use this product as an additive in the manufacture of various stock feed products.”
Wimpak also takes care to collect any rainwater runoff for use in plumbing, gardening, dust suppression and fire control, but recent drought has been one of the main issues affecting Australia’s grain industry. Despite this worry, Rethus is assured that the company has taken the necessary precautions to make it through any tough times.
“The next 10-12 months will be extremely challenging because of the recent two-year drought in the Wimmera resulting in small harvests, but Wimpak has been planning for some time to get through the 2016 harvest. I see the next 12 months as an opportunity to further develop the structure of Wimpak and improve efficiencies to keep Wimpak a profitable and low-cost business.
Wimpak has earned a favourable, trustworthy reputation in the community because it offers value to its customers through its services, prices and honest payment system.”