Tarac Technologies: Closing the loop in sustainable wine making

Ira Pant

Tarac Technologies

PO Box 78, Nuriootpa, SA 5355

Email : irap@tarac.com.au

Tarac’s positioning in the Wine Industry

Tarac Technologies was established in 1929 by ex-CSIRO scientist Alfred Allen at his home in the heartland of the Australian Wine Industry – the Barossa Valley, South Australia.

Tarac’s raisons d'être is to provide environmental solutions to the Australian wine industry to ensure its sustainability well into the future. This is achieved through its four plants, strategically positioned in the key wine growing regions of Australia—two in the Barossa valley, and one each in the Riverland and Griffith in New South Wales. These plants enable Tarac to service approximately two thirds (by volume) of the residuals from the Australian Wine Industry. Tarac’s closed loop process (Figure 1) ensures maximum utilisation of wine industry residuals while minimising the adverse impacts of its own by-products.


Figure 1: Tarac’s closed-loop process







Key environmental issues that Tarac alleviates through value adding, is the disposal of solid winemaking residuals including grape marc (left over skins and seeds), filter cake (perlite and diatomaceous earth used as filtration aids), lees and distillation wine, centrifuge desludge and tank washings. If not dealt with appropriately these can lead to significant environmental problems such as increased greenhouse gas and alcohol emissions; odour from the decomposition of the marc; soil and surface water contamination with acidic leachates; breeding of vermin, vinegar flies, maggots etc and potential fire hazards. In Tarac’s absence wineries would be compelled to find alternative solutions for their residuals to comply with regulatory requirements, which for many would be difficult and expensive. Tarac currently processes approximately 120,000 tonnes of grape marc, in excess of 35 million litres of distillation wine, lees and de-sludge and 5,000 tons of filter cake. These residuals from wine making are treated to recover grape alcohol, brandy and tartaric acid, products that are sold back to the Wine Industry.

In addition to value-adding to the solid waste residuals Tarac also processes waste water. This is undertaken through the North Para Environment Control (NPEC), a dedicated winery waste water treatment facility that Tarac and other wine companies set up in the Barossa Valley in 1975 with the aim of managing the effluent generated from four wine industry businesses namely Tarac Technologies, Penfolds, Kaiser Stuhl and Tolley Scott and Tolley. NPEC is now jointly owned by Fosters Wine Estates and Tarac. NPEC converts liquid winery effluent into A Class irrigation quality water for agricultural use.  The plant has undergone several upgrades over the years to meet the changing demands of the Wine Industry and Regulators. Currently it treats water with low and high biological oxygen demand separately. Most of the treated water is used in irrigation and some is also diverted back to Tarac for use in its own processes. The decision to reuse the water for irrigation was based on the results of NPEC funded research, undertaken by the South Australian Research and Development Institute, which investigated the impact of winery waste water on vineyard irrigation.

Due to the drought in the past few years and reduced allocations for irrigation from the River Murray, NPEC has received an increasing number of enquiries from neighbouring vineyards for its treated water. It recently completed a federally funded project that assisted in increasing the NPEC pipeline infrastructure from its treatment site to five neighbouring vineyards. This has been used to supply 102ML of water in the 2007-2008 irrigation year. With ever increasing pressures on the River Murray, Tarac is confident that ultimately all winery waste processed at NPEC will be returned to the vineyard in the form of high quality irrigation water - to achieve the optimal closed loop solution and minimise the impact on the environment.

Tarac’s imperative for the Thinker in Residence Program

As outlined above, it is evident that Tarac’s business is inexorably linked to the Wine Industry with which it has a symbiotic relationship. However to date Tarac believes that Tarac and the Wine Industry in general have not taken full advantage to exploit the value proposition that it provides to the Industry and ultimately the consumer as a provider of services critical for the environmental sustainability of the Industry.

However with increased focus on corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom-line, the proposition put forward to Tarac management by the team co-ordinating the 2008 Thinker in Residence (TiR) program to participate in a project focused on the value chain within the food and wine industries in South Australia, was propitious. Tarac recognised that such an assessment should comprise the full chain inclusive of the ‘back end’ or dealing with waste/residuals within the industry as this service is often unseen and substantially undervalued by the most of the chain, particularly the consumer.  Tarac hoped to bring this to the forefront by participating in the TiR program. The other advantage that would accrue for Tarac as a partner includes the opportunity for it to assess the value its services impart to the Wine Industry.

Further, collaborating with the Yalumba Wine Company and other supply chain partners in the ‘Vine to Dine’ sustainable value chain management project, described in details in the article by Camilleri (2008), will provide Tarac with tangible evidence of the benefits or otherwise of moving beyond the traditional economic models of value chain analysis to incorporate more ‘value-based behaviour’ inputs, as advocated by Fearne (personal communications), into value chain thinking.


Camilleri, CS 2008, True Blue – authenticity and Yalumba’s value chain, Corporate Citizen.