Wallace Corporation Composting

December 2015

Processing waste paunch grass from meat processing to high quality compost

A look at Wallace Corporation Limited – a business with a focus on turning primary sector waste into value added products.

Wallace Corporation Limited was formed in 1994 to consolidate several businesses. One of those businesses had been operating a rendering plant at Waitoa since 1937. Other businesses included a tannery, meat-processing , dairy and dry stock farms.

In 2008 Wallace began a composting operation, spearheaded by Aaron Findson, Head of Environment, who saw the opportunity of using paunch (undigested grass from the meat industry) as a major input.

In 2011 Wallace Meats was acquired by Silver Fern Farms. The sale heralded a strategic co-operation between those two companies.

As well as providing a rendering service for red meat customers the company also processes close to half of New Zealand’s poultry rendering.

Today Wallace Corporation Limited employs up to 150 staff. The company is a significant exporter with over 80 percent of sales being to Europe, Australia, China and Southern Asia.

Wallace Corporation Limited operates the largest service rendering plant in New Zealand with a raw material catchment area covering the Waikato, South Auckland, King Country, Bay of Plenty and Northland.  The rendering plant at Waitoa processes approximately 12% of the North Island’s renderable material. They currently process approximately 125,000 raw tonnes per annum.

Raw material comes from a number of different animal species including cattle, sheep, chicken, deer and duck.   Wallace Corp specifically does not process any pig or pork material.

Poultry material is separated out and processed through two dedicated lines, one for feathers and one for poultry offal.

There is also a separate processing line for all blood received at the plant.  The plant has recently been upgraded with state of the art electronic monitoring.

The quantity of paunch, which is undigested grass from healthy animals being slaughtered for domestic or export markets, can mean sizeable landfill charges for participants of the meat industry.  Wallace’s composting operation means local companies can process this waste economically and positively for the environment. All the nutrients in the compost are plant available and can be returned to local dairy pasture and maize paddocks or for horticultural needs.

While many NZ gardeners may associate compost with a bin at the bottom of the garden waiting for kitchen scraps, large scale commercial compost production is a much more precise business and needs to be produced to national/international standards to ensure food and animal safety is assured. Telarc Certificate of Registration No. 2847 means Wallace Compost complies with both the New Zealand Composting Standard NZ4454:2005 and AS/NZS ISO 9001:2008 – Quality.

Nature uses thermal decomposition to make compost, which is essentially like pasteurizing the compost to make it safe. You must ensure the correct temperature is met and the compost is being turned enough. Wallace employs a Quality Assurance Manager for this purpose.

The composting business takes food waste, hair (from the tannery), paunch grass and dissolved air flotation (DAF) solids from the meat plants and adds untreated sawdust as the source of carbon. Wallace Corporation Limited processes in the order of 16,000 tonnes of these waste inputs annually at the Waitoa site, providing around 10,000 tonnes of compost for local soil rejuvenation opportunities for local dairy farms, orchards and home gardens.

Anna Mayne from Wallace’s sales and marketing department says an increasingly large amount of compost is going to dairy farms as more and more farmers are becoming educated and interested in the importance of biologically active soils. They’re interested in applying organic matter (carbon) back to their land to improve water holding capability and soil microbe breeding ability. Wallace Corp has a policy where dairy farmers and orchardists are encouraged to soil test their blocks before a purchase decision is made. A 16 element soil test is used as it the most comprehensive test and evidences all macro and trace elements and it also determines the organic matter percentage (a measure of carbon) of an effluent or non-effluent block.  When this carbon source is utilised, it improves local soil carbon levels and bio-activity which helps restore and protect soil and waterways.

The compost is spread at a rate of 2.5-5 tonne/ ha for dairy pasture and from 5-50 tonne for orchards/cropping paddocks like maize. It should be applied after grazing and has a 14 day withholding period. A wide belt spreader is the best way to apply the compost on a dairy farm.

Recently Wallace Corp has been working with DITAG, the Dairy Industry Technical Advisory Group to ensure food and animal safety requirements are being met when Wallace Compost is applied to land. Their approach was to determine a withholding period for compost which has been established at 14 days, a first for the industry.

Clearly the recycling of agricultural waste products performs a valuable service for the environment, but the size of the business has also meant they’ve looked to grow and add value to the sizeable waste streams they are handling.

They’ve made two recent investments in innovation. In 2013 they invested in Aduro Polymers – a spin-out company formed by WaikatoLink, which is the tech transfer office of the University of Waikato. Aduro is described as a natural resource materials and biopolymer company. It has been developing a market for Novatein – a product which uses blood meal as the ‘feedstock’ to make bio-plastics.

Another significant investment was with Ligar, which uses molecularly imprinted polymers for purification and extraction.

CEO Graham Shortland says the investments reflect Wallace’s enthusiasm for innovative ways to turn new and existing raw materials into higher value products.