Scott Technology has won a multimillion-dollar contract to build an X-ray lamb boning system for Alliance Group's plant near Invercargill.
The deal was announced last Thursday morning to the NZX and was being lauded as a boost for the local economy in a difficult time.
The technology — worth $12.5million — will be developed at Scott's Dunedin offices over the next 10 months.
It uses X-ray and vision technology to get more accurate cuts while also removing workers at Alliance's Lorneville plant from being at the forefront of "heavy primal cutting activities," thus making it safer for them.
"It's a significant development in terms of health and safety because it does remove people from those slightly higher risk areas of the cutting operation," Scott chief executive John Kippenberger said.
Those workers can then focus on smaller cuts that need more precise work.
"It puts the labour to the next-highest value component, which is for example, cutting French racks to go into high-end British restaurants," he said.
Parts of the X-ray technology are already in use at Alliance's Dannevirke, Pukeuri and Smithfield plants and the farmers' co-operative said it had improved safety, labour and yield efficiency at those locations.
"This multimillion investment also underlines Alliance's commitment to the Lorneville plant and to Southland," Alliance chief executive David Surveyor said.
The relationship between the companies is one Kippenberger said Scott hopes to develop further.
"This is the first time in New Zealand where that technology has been applied and that's what we're looking to do at Scott.
"By having long-standing relationships, by looking at evolving technology, by working closely with customers we're looking to be able to say 'OK, this is the evolution of the technology for this plant, for your next plant and for plants in five or 10 years' time."
It was also a positive sign of investment into both Otago and Southland at a time when Covid-19 had caused serious disruption to the two economies.
"In a time of Covid-19 when there is a lot of uncertainty around the global economic picture I think it's highly positive that a leading company like Alliance is investing significant sums of money — well over $10million dollars — into new technology.
"That's obviously positive for Alliance, positive for their farmer co-operative partners and also highly positive for Scott."
Kippenberger said Scott was unlikely to increase its workforce to do the project.
"But with a big project like this we'll be assessing the other partners we work with.
"A lot of the work is done in-house at our Dunedin operation but it also means good things for some of our subcontracting partners as well."
Further projects to be completed at Lorneville this year include a major engine room upgrade and the reconfiguration of the modern venison plant so it can also process beef.