Australian and New Zealand Renderers gather in Queenstown, New Zealand for a Mini Conference

Every two years the Australian Renderers Association (ARA) holds a Rendering Symposium at an Australian location. Recently, the New Zealand Renderers Group (NZRG) has begun hosting a joint meeting of the executives from the two bodies in alternate years. This year the New Zealand event was held in Queenstown, in New Zealand’s scenic South Island. The event was a mini conference open to all members from both organisations. Almost 100 attended.

The location was spectacular and getting there was easy: direct flights land from four Australian state capitals and there are numerous connections from New Zealand cities.

Newcomers to Queenstown were easy to spot. They had a “wow!!” expression on their faces. Organised events kicked off with an evening trip across Lake Wakatipu in the vintage steamer Earnslaw to visit Walter Peak, a high country sheep and cattle station. A magnificent dinner, accompanied by a selection of local wines, set the tenor for what was to follow. 

The programme for the event was useful, informative and educational. Regulatory aspects shared time with innovation, research, training and education, a dose of reminiscing and of course a good deal of discussion about the future. (Credit for creating the programme goes to Kevin Cresswell of the NZRG, NZRG Chair Bruce Rountree and the NZRG Organising Committee, as well as Dennis King from the ARA and ARA Chair Andy Bennett.)

After independent NZRG and ARA meetings early on Friday morning, both groups combined for the formal welcome by the respective Chairs, then heard a WRO update delivered by First Vice President of the WRO, Tim Juzefowicz, then an update on FPRF activities by FPRF Director Graham Shortland.

Next, Frank Dupps Jnr from the Dupps Company (USA) delivered his keynote speech: “Trends and Challenges in US Rendering”. There are many similarities to the issues we face in this part of the world, though inevitably there are also significant differences. This was an extremely valuable presentation in offering us the opportunity both to appreciate our common experiences and to contemplate the contrasts between our parts of the world.

Our next two speakers represented the regulators from New Zealand and Australia and spoke about very recent topical issues. New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries Director of Animal and Animal Products, Matthew Stone titled his presentation, “Learning from Recent Food Safety Incidents”. No particular incidents involved rendered products but it was encouraging to see how our regulator has responded to recent issues in China, allocating resources both to minimize the likelihood of such events being repeated, and also to assist exporters in this difficult market.

Linda Hayden of the Australian Department of Agriculture spoke about “The Trials and Tribulations of Restoring Market Access”. Linda and the teams she has worked with in recent years have established protocols that enable a rapid return to markets following a variety of problems. The key is to have appropriately skilled personnel available around the clock, prepared to travel immediately to international hot spots. 

Darren Harpur of Aduro BioPolymers spoke of the development of “Plastics from Meals” and how this project  was progressing. There are promising opportunities here but commercial application is still some time ahead.

Dr. Mark Booth of the New South Wales  Department of Primary Industries then gave us an Aquaculture update. There seems to be an opportunity for renderers to supplant some fish meal with meat and bone meal in the diets of some aquaculture species in the near future. Being near Asia will do us no harm but we must learn to produce consistent meals with a low ash content.

Tissa Fernando, who recently retired from Haarslev after their purchase of Flo Dry Engineering from him two years ago, regaled us with some early memories from his time developing the Low Temperature Rendering System while at the NZ Meat Research Institute about 35 years ago. Energy efficiency and quality of end products from mixed raw materials were the drivers of the MIRINZ MLTR system that has become the standard in this part of the world. These same concerns - energy efficiency and product quality - remain key process drivers today.

Professor John Nacey took the opportunity to illustrate how important it was to establish a regular testing regime for prostate cancer. With a predominantly male audience in the ‘at risk’ age range, this was a novel but valuable reminder to the attendees.

The respective Chairs for the two countries then gave an update on recent activities within each country before some discussion on joint initiatives for the future. In closing the conference there was unanimous resolve to repeat the event in two years’ at the same location. 

At the final dinner a presentation was made to Tissa Fernando for his contribution to the Industry over many years, the organisers thanked the usual industry sponsors whose generous contributions made this mini conference such a success, and singled out Frank Dupps Jnr to thank him for travelling so far and giving of his time so generously.

Queenstown was a popular destination. We look forward to hosting even more participants in two years.

 By Alan von Tunzelman