Hatchery helps boost Rochester’s economy
AS ONE door closes in Rochester, another one opens.
Still reeling from the news Murray Goulbourn will close its factory, the town has a new and growing business with the Special Breeders Australia (SBA) hatchery facility on Railway Rd now fully operational.
And it is here to stay according to project manager and fifth-generation district local Derek Shotton.
“Egg consumption in Australia is increasing and to fuel that you need egg laying birds – which is what we supply,” he said.
“We are quite confident for the future.
“The normal life expectancy of a hatchery is 35 years before a major refit is needed but we believe with all the forward planning, we can get more out of it as we have allowed for a space to install new technology as it arises.
“Thirty per cent of our workforce is locals and we make sure we advertise all our open positions locally.”
The journey started seven years ago when the company decided it needed a new hatchery and research began into the best technology and practise, reviewing equipment from around the world.
Five years ago when the time came to select a site, SBA needed a location in the middle of its existing farms – with access to town water and stable power supply.
SBA selected Rochester for things like existing infrastructure, linkage to customers and resources and a workforce with skills that over time the company could access.
Mr Shotton said at full capacity the factory could deliver a maximum of around 155,000 chicks in a day.
“It all depends on the orders we get and the ebb and flow of the business,” he said.
“We deliver all through Victoria, NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and South Australia and occasionally to Western Australia.”
The $17 million project has not been without opposition but was given the green light last October after a Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal dismissed objections from nearby residents.
Mr Shotton said besides the VCAT hearing most of the support locally has been positive.
“We have always had safeguards in place from day one and we didn’t have to adjust many as a result of the VCAT hearing,” he said.
“I think people don’t realise the live chicks are only on site for six hours and eggs are in the incubator for 21 days.
“We have waste treatment plants and it’s carted away, the whole building is self-contained and the sanitisers smell more than the birds do.
“It’s a very clean environment, to come in you have to shower in and out - we take it very seriously, all trucks go through a sanitising and cleaning station to prevent diseases before entering the facility grounds for bio security.”
Mr Shotton said he wasn’t forget- ting the business’ role in the local community.
“During the building process all the subcontractors were local and we made sure our other contractors stayed at local accommodation and we continue to do so for on-going training,” he said.
“We have opened trading accounts with any local business we could conceivably do business with in the future.
“We don’t keep any fuel on site, instead we purchase through Rochester and Elmore BP and we make sure we use local caterers for team building and staff lunches.”
ECONOMIC BOOST — Specialist Breeders Australia's Katie Meadows and manager Derek Shotton outside the recently-completed Rochester hatchery.