AGRIBUSINESS GrainCorp is utilising its extensive data set surrounding usage patterns at its upcountry bulk handling sites as it seeks best bang for buck with its significant capital expenditure program this year.
Earlier in the month, GrainCorp announced it would install a further two million tonnes of storage across its east coast network.
GrainCorp chief operating officer Klaus Pamminger said the company had continued its traditional process of liaising with grower customers about their requirements but had also started to increasingly augment this with data collected over harvest.
"The objective data really helps us ground truth the feedback we are getting from growers," Mr Pamminger said.
"It's been interesting as the data has backed up a lot of what the farmers had been telling us, it is really helping us with the capital expenditure budget to invest in a manner that generates a really good return on investment," he said.
Mr Pamminger said while creating more storage was a major priority it was not the only focus of GrainCorp's site upgrades.
"We want to make it a more efficient experience and we're really looking to get our sites set up so the on-site experience for those delivering grain is as fast and efficient as possible," he said.
"This could include better configuration of the site, upgrades to grain handling machinery, creating rail loading efficiencies, any improvements that will make things run smoother during that busy harvest period."
He said GrainCorp was keen to make the site upgrades due to not only the positive seasonal prospects but the large amount of carry-over grain from the 2021-22 harvest.
"Last year was a bumper and there is plenty of carry-over, we need to make sure we have the room to handle this year's crop, which is also shaping up well early days."
Similar to last year GrainCorp will focus on bunkers as the major storage infrastructure.
Mr Pamminger said the company was working to develop a better bunker wall set-up that would allow them to be higher and thus markedly increase storage capacity.
"We can really boost what we can put into the bunker with a relatively small increase in the height of the bunker walls," he said.
In terms of the sites earmarked for upgrades Mr Pamminger said the focus would remain on the primary sites with good rail and outloading facilities.
However, he said the company realised the importance of its secondary and flex sites which often only operate in years of high volumes of receivals.
Last year GrainCorp received hundreds of thousands of tonnes through its flex sites, with centres such as Kiacatoo in central west NSW taking over 70,000 tonnes and Barnes Crossing in far southern NSW near Moama taking over 50,000 tonnes.
"We may not make the big investments in more storage at those flex sites but if there are alterations we can make that helps them run better then that's something we'll look at," Mr Pamminger said.
He said smaller sites were popular with those with smaller equipment.
"You'll generally see those moving grain via road train or B-Double look to those bigger sites as a flex site could be slower to unload a road train and they're happier to travel a bit further to get there, whereas those with smaller gear have found the flex sites have suited them well."
Mr Pamminger said it was critical GrainCorp made investments while its balance sheet was healthy off the back of a run of boom years.
"Farmers are also investing in equipment and they are taking the crop off quicker than ever before, we need to be able to deal with that really intense harvest peak."
He also said in recent season the company was noticing a less pronounced north to south flow of harvest.
"We've seen a really massive grain right through our network all ready at once and we need to be able to cope with that."
Mr Pamminger acknowledged GrainCorp's limitations in creating efficiencies in moving grain to port due to issues with rail infrastructure, a key lobbying point for grain grower organisations, but said the company would continue to focus on issues within its control.
Gregor Heard is Fairfax Ag Media's national grains industry reporter, based in Horsham, Victoria. He has a wealth of knowledge surrounding the cropping sector through his ten years in the role. Prior to that he was with the Fairfax network as a reporter with Stock & Land. Some of the major issues he has reported on during his time with the company include the deregulation of the export wheat market, the introduction of genetically modified crops and the fight to protect growers better from grain trader insolvencies. Still involved with the family farm he is passionate about rural Australia and its people and hopes to use his role to act as an advocate for those involved in the grain sector. Away from work, he is a keen traveller, having spent his long service leave last year in Spain learning the language.
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