Fourteen Rotarians and friends were treated to an amazing site visit at the Maryborough SONAC Factory on Thursday January 27. Prior perceptions about the place were completely blown away by the informative talks and tour through the facilities. Click "Read more..." for details and a gallery of photographs.
SONAC is owned by a Dutch Stock Exchange company with 200 locations around the world, and over 10,000 employees. Darling processes 10% of all the world’s animal by-products. 
The Maryborough facility is the only one Darling operates in the Southern Hemisphere. Here, the company produces blood products from Bovine (cattle), Ovine (sheep) and Porcine (pigs), but around the world, their companies produce a whole range of food, feed and fuel products from the carcasses and fluids of animals. In fact, as Maryborough Manager Simon Cox explained, the company has a high emphasis on sustainability and wherever possible, they aim to turn every last part of an animal into a useful product e.g., in one factory, they turn pig mucus into a useful product.
In Maryborough, SONAC uses a unique process to process their products. This involves the collection of blood from a number of abattoirs in Victoria and New South Wales such as Ararat, Warrnambool, Murray Bridge and Wagga Wagga. SONAC actually sets up the equipment required to collect the blood at their chosen abattoirs and transfer it hygienically into the Stainless-Steel tanker trucks. The tankers have a limited time to transport the blood to Maryborough where the blood is uniquely separated into the two components of plasma and haemoglobin before further processing. Other factories do not do this separation. The fluid is then drained from each product to produce a fine powder that is easily transported to companies that use it for other products. 41 billion litres of liquid is removed by the process over the course of a year which becomes pure water. Some of that water is currently transported to the Maryborough Golf Club to water the greens. The main user of SONAC Maryborough’s Plasma product is the Mars company in Albury where they use it as the protein base of Pet Food. Other plasma product is used to feed piglets. The Haemoglobin powder, 90% protein, is currently used to feed Salmon since it is very easy to digest. Annually they produce 1600 tonnes of plasma powder and 2800 tonnes of haemoglobin powder. 50% of their product is used in Australia, and 50% is used offshore in countries like Korea, Thailand, and New Zealand.
The Maryborough factory was originally built by a Chinese Company in 2008, and SONAC bought it in 2012. At the time, the factory was under-resourced, so SONAC has progressively upgraded a lot of the equipment to make it state of the art. As a result, it took the company a while to make a profit on this site, but now there are plans to build a new treatment system and expand operations.
Members all agreed that their eyes were completely opened by what they saw and learned about SONAC from this site visit. Some of us were expecting to smell noxious odours, see blood pouring from containers, and run into vampires lurking in the shadows – just kidding about the vampires! But it was nothing like that. The whole factory seems to be an efficient, hygienic, stainless steel, computer-driven, High-Tec marvel. Thank you SONAC for an enjoyable, informative, eye-opening experience.