Burke and Bronwyn Brandon and their two children moved to their Moyarra farm in 2011. The Brandon’s were attracted by the natural landscape and land care projects started, and brought milking sheep to the farm. After three years of transporting milk off site for processing plans were realised to process milk on the farm and the Prom Country Cheese factory was constructed in 2014. The multi-award winning cheeses are served on cellar door lunch platters, plus supply the Melbourne region and further interstate.
From the beginning the Brandon’s were focused on sustainability and reducing impacts to the environment:
- They stopped the use of chemical fertilisers and broadacre sprays; instead applying organic manures, compost and minerals as well as using grazing management to improve pastures.
- With the support of Korumburra Landcare Group they have put a lot of effort into land care and providing tree shelter, which has improved biodiversity and reduced erosion
- They designed an energy efficient building with a material that has higher insulation and can assist in reducing energy costs. The initial cost was $25,000 more than other materials, however, their insurance is 70% cheaper (because its non-flammable)
- They also installed solar which has halved their peak power usage.
Sustainability has always underpinned management actions on our farm, and now TAKE2 formalises our commitment. We will continue to choose environmental options, as a clean environment is crucial to the quality and integrity of milk and cheeses we produce, and the experience enjoyed by our visitors. This is demonstrated by re-vegetating 20% of our erosion prone farm. We have fenced and planted all waterways and steep areas prone to landslip, to improve water quality and keep our fertile soil where it is. The topography makes this very challenging, however we are rewarded in other ways such as with animal shelter, increased biodiversity and improved farm management. Some future projects will complete a whole farm plan.
Prom Country Cheese was awarded a $5000 grant funding for an energy assessment under the Boosting Business Productivity program. As part of increasing their sustainability focus they applied for funding to assist them to address issues around security of supply as well as integrating further renewables and storage into the existing system.
Prom Country Cheese had already made significant efforts toward sustainability, therefore the primary objective for the Energy Assessment was to identify what more could be done. They are a great example of a business that had already completed many initiatives but still identified more to do in the way of sustainability, energy and cost savings.
A key reason for Prom Country Cheese doing the energy assessment was energy security. Lack of power during black outs results in loss of trade and product which incurs a significant cost to operating a viable business. As Prom Country Cheese are keen to invest in more solar PV (to address a peak electricity shortage) it was important to consider energy efficiency and accurate load distribution, to ensure that the optimum size for the PV upgrade is selected. They also wanted to understand if there were options to replace their LPG boiler with the new PV installation as the cost of LPG was a substantial operating cost, and the boiler a maintenance issue.
The Energy Assessment Grant identified some opportunities to improve energy efficiency and maximise use of renewable electricity.
As mentioned the business wanted to move away from LPG, move to electric and therefore requiring more solar, however, the assessment actually identified a better solution based on their operation profile. It was recommended to purchase a new boiler and remain on LPG. This would lessen the maintenance, given their current boiler was quite old. In addition, it was identified this would reduce gas consumption and therefore costs.
The recommendation did include installing additional solar to offset costs, however the assessment identified that a smaller amount of extra solar would be more cost viable than the business originally thought.
Annual cost savings of between $6000–9000 were identified depending on the options chosen and level of investment. Higher cost options had a longer payback period but better long term return on investment.