Today started off with a continental breakfast. It included pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, fruit, pastries, a yogurt bar, and (unfortunately) instant coffee (several people miss brewed coffee). Then we boarded the bus with Jeff, our bus driver for the North Island, to head off to our busy day full of Fonterra related activities.
When we arrived at Fonterra's Te Rapa facility, we noticed that they had an American flag on display. When we asked why our color were flying, we were told that the flag was put up in honor of for our visit! We started off by touring a milk powder processing facility, which was relatively empty because there is not much milk currently coming in. We got to see the machines used to turn milk into milk powder, and had a discussion with Fonterra employees. New Zealand processes and exports 93% of their fresh milk into milk powder, as their 5 million cows produce more milk than what the 4.5 million kiwi population could ever consume.
After touring the facility, we went across the parking lot to Milk Test NZ, a company that conducts safety testing on dairy products from Fonterra and other dairy companies. We put on some flattering lab coats (they looked more like unfolded napkins) and we toured the mostly-automated testing facility. The staff demonstrated the complete testing process, and showed us how each of the robots did its task (the robots even had names!). Afterwards, they gave us mini cow stress balls.
After a short drive, we had the opportunity to tour Fonterra’s Crawford Street distribution facility. For this visit, we put on some lovely steel-toed boots, yellow safety vests, and goggles. For the tour, we split into two groups. We first toured the dried milk powder storerooms. The warehouse was huge and had special fenced paths for pedestrians. We saw the loading dock and observed forklifts loading the dairy products into the shipping containers for distribution. We also saw the railroad tracks where freight trains bring the finished product from the Te Rapa production facility to Crawford Street for distribution. Next on the tour was the refrigerated storeroom, which was set at a cozy temperature of minus ten degrees Celsius. The fridges were filled with giant boxes of assorted cheese flavors and cream cheese. After the fridge tour, we went back into the main office for lunch.
Afterward, we headed to the farm of a Fonterra shareholder, Grant. Grant generously provided us with a snack of Fonterra ice cream products. Grant then gave us insight on his farming practices, but also shared some practical advice on how he and his wife manage their farm when faced with natural disasters.
Finally, we got headed back to our hotel to change for our dinner with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Once we arrived, we socialized with PwC staff and then learned about how PwC works with farmers on an accounting and consulting basis in New Zealand. We also listened to a presentation by Dr. John Roche, a leading dairy scientist in New Zealand, who discussed trends in the local (New Zealand) and global dairy sector.