Hop Products Australia is celebrating a major milestone in its $35 million expansion this week.
HPA is commissioning its Buffalo River Valley processing facility tomorrow (Wednesday 26th February) ahead of the commercial hop harvest this March, marking the completion of the first phase of its investment.
Owen Johnston, sales and marketing manager at HPA, said it was an exciting but also scary time for the business, as it looks to cater to the increasingly hop-driven trends in the beer industry.
“We’re very proud of how well our employees and contractors have collaborated to bring this once-in-a-decade project to life. And we’re thrilled to be able to grow alongside the customers who have shown us so much support,” Johnston said.
“But there’s also a number of challenges that come with doubling the size of our Victorian acreage. Our team on the farm have been absolute superstars at dealing with these efficiently and effectively as they arise.”
The expansion will see HPA increase its total production to 2,400 metric tonnes by 2024, planting 150 additional hectares.
Its investment in the Buffalo Rivers processing facility included the installation of a Daunhauer picker and 6 kiln floors to keep up with the increased acreage.
They will now move on to phase two which will include planting an additional 150 hectares, installation of a second Daunhauer picker and another 6 kiln floors over the next 3 years.
Johnston explained that hop production had varied over time but HPA was confident in the strength of the industry and demand looking forward.
“As with all industries, we’ve weathered a few troughs and peaks in our time. In the early 2000s we had to sell two of our Tasmanian farms as a result of economic conditions,” he said.
“Since 2009, we’ve released six new proprietary varieties, and we’re on track to more than triple our production volumes by 2024.
“The pivot to new, flavour hops has been immensely important to this upturn in outlook.”
The development of hop-forward beer styles like the American Pale Ale, IPA and NEIPA has driven “unprecedented levels” of hop consumption, said HPA, which allowed them to expand.
“The innovation centre of our business, the breeding program, is pivotal to our ability to respond to shifting trends,” explained Johnston.
“Our knowledge of each new cultivar’s ability to perform in different beer styles helps us to select and plant the appropriate variety mix.
“We’re mindful of the long timeframe of these processes and the pace at which consumer trends can change, so we maintain ongoing conversations with our customers to stay as up to date as possible.”
Following the completion of the first phase of the expansion, HPA will look at expanding its production capacity even further.
“Once we get through the first commercial harvest at Buffalo River Valley, we’ll turn our attention to completing phase two of the expansion project which involves planting an additional 150 hectares, installing a second Daunhauer picker and another 6 kiln floors.
“We’re expecting to reach full production by 2024,” Johnston explained.