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The high-tech, German-made Petkus seed-dressing plant, in operation in Ashburton since earlier this year, was officially opened recently by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, Luisetti Seeds production director Vincent Luisetti and his father Max, now retired but who spent 42 years in the industry.
Mid Canterbury is considered the heart of New Zealand’s seed and grain industry and Mr O’Connor helped the company secure international border exemptions for offshore specialists during tight Covid-19 restrictions — working alongside a dedicated team of people in the district — to get the technology up and running in time for harvest season.
Many of those involved in the installation of the plant at the Dobson St site were present for the official opening alongside Luisetti staff, Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown, industry personnel, as well as members of the Ridge family of Methven and the Larsen family, of Rangiora, both fourth generation customers of Luisetti Seeds.
The new plant is the first of its kind in New Zealand and one of the biggest globally outside of the United States.
Four and a-half thousand extra tonnes of crops had been grown with the new plant in mind.
"It’s truly, truly impressive," Mr O’Connor said, of the plant which was given a test run for people to see it in action.
Mr O’Connor said he was thankful to Luisetti Seeds, along with others in New Zealand, who did their part with the Covid response, and to those working in the primary sector for stepping up and doing the right thing to enable the country to continue to grow the wealth of the country, which was now being enjoyed.
He also appreciated the commitment by companies who had been owned by families through the generations.
The plant, which had exceeded expectations, involves a seed-cleaning, treating and packing production line that is capable of processing three and a-half tonnes of ryegrass per hour and more than 20 tonnes an hour of grain. Existing machinery processes about a tonne an hour.
The cereal packer has been set at 10 tonnes/hour to allow staff to safely keep up with the semi-automated packer. It is fully automated with Wi-Fi connection and cameras, and can be operated remotely by Petkus engineers in Germany.
It also has a dust collection and management system, and includes a precleaner with up to 380 different-sized integrated riddle scrappers and the latest technology in double-head separating.
The company, with offices in Ashburton and Rangiora, sees the investment as giving it a competitive edge in a highly competitive industry.
The process, from design to reality, has taken about three years.