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Cold storage in a warming world

The Pullar family began growing fruit back in the 1880s but from their earliest days they knew there was more to the business the planting and harvesting.

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The family has moved location – from Ardmona, part of Victoria’s Goulburn Valley to Cobram on the Murray River - to take advantage of a better climate and irrigation water.

" I've got three children so we're trying to do our bit for the world and their future.” – Dean Pullar

And they changed their business in response to new markets and customer needs: in 1950 the first cool room was built to store the fruit being grown on the orchard’s 500 acres but later expanded to provide storage for neighbouring dairy companies such as Murray Goulburn.

Innovation has always been crucial. Director Dean Pullar says his father Philip was the one who first noticed the opportunity to diversify: “there was more and more demand [from the dairy industry] so we just kept building more cool rooms, year after year.”

Now, Pullar Cold Storage offers system controlled cold storage as well as freight and distribution. But they are far from immune to shifting business forces. Dean says their reliance on electricity led to huge power bills when Victoria’s Hazelwood power station closed in 2017.

“We saw prices go through the roof, it just wasn’t economical anymore,” he says.

To help combat rising costs, the business looked into renewable energy sources such as solar panels as an alternative.

“We now have about 1,330 solar panels on the roof, producing approximately 440 kilowatts of energy,” Dean says.  “Hopefully as storage batteries become more efficient and cost-effective we can begin to store it and invest in more panels.”

Although the initial interest in renewable energy was a financial one, the family is also conscious of their impact on the environment.

“I've got three children so we're trying to do our bit for the world and their future,” Dean says.

Through their relationship with ANZ - spanning over 50 years - Pullar Cold Storage was encouraged to take part in the ANZ Energy Efficient Asset Finance program with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC).

“We've been with ANZ for a long time and they supported us through the drought when we had to sell our orchard due to rising water costs and lower dairy supply,” Dean says. “We took a hit to both our horticulture and storage businesses – it was touch and go for a while. When they mentioned the CEFC program it made sense to us so we pushed ahead with the solar project.”

Although environmental innovation in cold storage isn’t a growing sector, Dean says there are other options such as power factor correction and load shedding which can help with outputs.

“It became a race to not be left on the grid after Hazelwood closed – there is huge demand for solar,” he says.

ANZ has joined forces with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to establish a $A150 million program to help Australian businesses like Pullar Cold Storage cut energy costs and reduce carbon emissions through innovation.

The ANZ Energy Efficient Asset Finance program makes it easier for businesses to invest in energy-efficient and renewable technologies that will help reduce their energy use, carbon foot print and fuel costs.

Andrew Malcolm is Agribusiness Manager at ANZ

The views and opinions expressed in this communication are those of the author and may not necessarily state or reflect those of ANZ.

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