Car components manufacturer Conma Industries yesterday received a $328,700 grant from the Automotive Supplier Diversification Program to help it make metal vineyard posts for another South Australian company Ocvitti.
Conma began making parts used to repair metal vineyard trellis posts for Ocvitti about six years ago. The products have enjoyed success in California following a ban on toxic wooden vineyard posts there in 2000.
However, the introduction in 2015 of Ocloc trellis posts and entire vineyard systems designed for Australian vineyards has resulted in strong growth for Ocvitti.
The metal posts can be used to replace broken treated pine posts, of which there are millions in Australia every year, or be used as a cheaper, more durable alternative to the traditional toxic wooden posts when establishing new vineyards.
Wooden vineyard posts are traditionally treated with CCA or Creosote, which cannot be legally burned and are notoriously difficult to get rid of resulting in large piles of broken posts out the back of vineyards around Australia.
Ocvitti designer and director Brian O’Malley said there were 85 million of the potentially toxic wooden posts in Australian vineyards, of which about 4.2 million failed and needed replacing each year.
“We supply 203 vineyards and even today we picked up six new clients,” he said.
“What’s happening is people are testing and testing the product and coming back and saying thank goodness there is finally something that is really strong with good longevity.”
Ocvitti and Conma began working together in 2010 to make a repair bracket for metal vineyard posts in the United States.
“In doing that we had to look at all the different variety of metal posts that were in the marketplace,” O’Malley said.
“We imported a number of metal posts from around the world and we adapted it to suit the Australian market but we also made some major improvements on the concept.”
Design features include soft wire holes to reduce wire wear, high-tensile steel and a zinc-aluminium alloy coating, Galfan, which gives the posts twice the lifespan of galvanized steel.
Conma will use the government funding to help manufacture specialised tooling and to modernise and expand machinery to develop additional products that will enhance the Ocloc steel trellis system range and support further growth in the horticultural market.
The company will manufacture about 100,000 posts this year and will have the capacity to produce up to 250,000 posts next year.
“We’ve been around for six years but we only started focusing on the metal posts four years ago, part of which was spent on research and development and developing manufacturing processes,” O’Malley said.
“Now Conma are putting in three new lines to make sure we can meet the manufacturing goals that we have. There’s certain times where we just can’t keep up with the demand.”
Ocvitti has supplied its Ocloc posts and systems to vineyards in South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales for wine companies including Taylors, Seppeltsfield, Henschke, Serafino and Paxton.
It also works with a manufacturer in California, which makes Ocloc repair brackets under licence for the US market.
The grant and the move further in to viticulture products couldn’t come at a better time for Conma, which makes car components for Walker exhaust systems and Monroe shock absorbers.
Although after market products will be in demand for some time, new car manufacturing in Australia will cease next month when Toyota and Holden cease production.Jump to next article