Venerable organic dairy farmer turns to packaging automation to boost output and extend its market reach
August 31, 2018
While full ‘farm-to-fork’ product traceability remains a highly challenging task for many Canadian agrifood companies mandated to have such a system in place, it is largely a breeze for companies blessed full hands-on control of their farming, processing and distribution operations.
Companies like the Ferme Vallée Verte 1912 (Green Valley Farm), a family-owned and operated natural dairy products manufacturer located in Saint-Jean-de-Matha, Que., about 100 kilometers northeast of Montreal.
Founded in 1912 by brothers David and Samuel Gadoury, the company has aged very gracefully over the past century and a bit.
Meticulously maintained in its natural state by successive generations of the Gadoury clan, the four hundred acres of prime grazing land owned by the family have proved to be a fruitful ground for the manufacture of all-natural, premium-quality GMO-free products such as fluid milk, artisanal cheeses and yogurts.
Making home for a dairy herd of about 60 Holstein cows—renowned as the world’s highest-production dairy animal—and a few lactating Jersey cows, the land is lovingly cultivated to ensure comfortable walking around for the pampered creatures.
Moreover, the herd is fed a highly nutritious blends of hay, grass legume and forage silage, along with special dairy feed during milking, to promote robust all-natural milk production without the use of any chemicals, pesticides hormones, antibiotics, or the aforementioned genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).
When not wondering around outside, the herd is grouped together in a large building where they lay down not on loose straw, as is customary in the industry, but on sand—giving the cows better comfort keeping the unwelcome bugs, insects and parasites largely at bay.
As company co-owner David Gadoury explains, keeping the animals happy and stress-free lies at the heart of the company’s sustainable farming mindset aimed at ensuring reliable production of superior quality finished products that contain no coloring agents, preservatives or artificial flavors of any kind.
Moreover, Gadoury points out that the cows are not milked at specific fixed times en masse by a big mechanized milking system that can stress out the animals.
Instead, the cows simply head to one of the two milking robots positioned nearby in the building whenever they themselves feel the need to be milked—all part of the so-called ‘voluntary’ milking process lauded as being much more ethically humane than mechanized mass milking.
“Doing things this way greatly reduces the stress of animals at the time of milking,” Gadoury proclaims, “and with two robots in operation, there is never congestion.
“Moreover, each cow is embedded with a unique microchip to collect all the pertinent data on when each of the cows was milked, the time of milking, and how much milk they produced—both in the morning and in the evening.
“Our two robots have definitely made herd management easier for us,” he says, “and we have all noticed that the animals are generally behaving less nervously than
Once the milk has been collected in desired quantities inside large refrigerated tanks, it is sent directly to the company’s on-site dairy shop and processing facility, where it is bottled after being pasteurized at low temperature—without being homogenized—or set aside to be used for the production of cheese or yogurt.
Renowned for the superior freshness and wholesome taste of its all-natural products, Ferme Vallée Verte sells its milk—including the 3.8-percent white “milk of yesteryear” and the Choco Milk, made with real cocoa—in custom-made 500-ml and one-liter wide-moth glass bottles topped off with large-diameter tinplate screwcap closures.
Because the milk is never homogenized, there is always a layer of cream forming near the bottle opening, so consumers are advised to give the bottle a good shake before pouring out and enjoying the rich, smooth and wholesome milk boasting luxurious creamy texture and taste profile.
Naturally, the high quality of this milk makes a perfect base for the production of premium-quality yogurts—packaged in 500-ml or 750-ml glass pods—in a diverse array of flavors that includes vanilla, pineapple, blueberry, cherry, strawberry, peach, raspberry, cranberry and plain.
Likewise, the company’s inspired selection of artisanal sweet and flavored cheddars—along with its signature Paramd’Or (parmesan-and-cheddar) offering—make a compelling statement about the virtues of producing delicious dairy products without any preservatives, colorings or artificial flavors.
While the sweet cheddars are packaged in 200-, 300- and 600-gram vacuum-packed blocks, the varied flavored cheeses—including mushroom, beer, pepper, tomato-and-pepper, crushed chilli pepper and garlic-onion-chive—are sold in 125-gram squares, also tightly vacuum-packed in clear see-through plastic to show off the pure natural ingredients to full aesthetic effect.
While the company’s products have long been warmly embraced in the local markets, it has long been constrained in terms of production capacity due to the outdated packaging equipment that it originally sourced from China.
In fact, Gadoury says that Ferme Vallée Verte was only able to use 60 per cent of all the milk its herd produced to manufacture its value-added yogurt and cheese products.
To bridge that gap, while also improving its packaging line efficiencies, the company turned to Montreal-based packaging machine-builder Capmatic Ltd. to come up with a reliable high-performance solution for its packaging needs.
“When we started looking for the new equipment, we initially looked at the machines made in China,” recalls company co-owner Samuel Gadoury.
“But although the pricing was interesting, we had our doubts about whether the quality of the equipment would match our needs and expectations, was the level of what we wanted,” says Gadoury, noting that the original made-in-China equipment rarely performed to his full satisfaction, with many parts of the system wearing out prematurely.
After learning about Capmatic’s stellar industry reputation as an elite manufacturer of stand-alone machines and turnkey packaging solutions the manufacturer supplies to the pharmaceutical, liquid-food and other consumer industries, Gadoury ultimately settled on installing a made-in-Canada solution that also offered impeccable local technical support and servicing capabilities.
“With the manufacturer located Montreal, we felt assured about having quick access to technical support and change parts,” he states.
To get the dairy producer’s packaging operations up to par, Capmatic proceeded to supply several of its high-quality packaging machines, including:
- An eight-head model Accurofill 8 filler—a fullyautomatic inline filling system capable of handling liquid, semi-viscous and viscous products containing small particles up to halfinch
Equipped with innovative nozzles designed to ensure optimal control of product foaming for high-precision filling,the Accurofill 8 at the Green Valley plant makes light work of packaging either milk or yogurts in 500-ml and one-liter glass jars at speeds of 20 to 40 bottles per minute.
- A Beltstar C capping and tightening system—a high-speed inline screwcap applicator incorporating innovative servo-drive belt systems for secure tightening of caps with superior gripping and precise torque application—ensuring no damage to the caps.
- A Labelstar 2/2 T double-head label applicator, designed to attach front and back pressure-sensitive product labels, with the flexibility to also apply a wraparound labels in 360-degree
orientation, on any round bottles, as well as handling square, rectangular or oval bottles, with no change part required.
For the Ferme Vallée Verte installation, the Labelstar 2/2 T was supplied with an integrated Videojet Dataflex 6420 industrial thermal-transfer coder for instant application of all the required production codes and any other required variable product information.
- An automatic bottle dispenser and a 39-inch bottle accumulation table, manufactured by Storcan International, to facilitate uninterrupted process flow.
Says Gadoury: “These are top-of-the-line stainless-steel machines manufactured under the highest quality standards anywhere.
“The new Capmatic equipment perfectly matched everything we were looking for,” he says, adding the new systems will play a key role in helping the dairy expand its market reach.
“It will definitely help us to improve the yield rates from our milk production so that not only we’ll be able to continue supplying our existing markets in Lanaudière and Montreal,” he concludes,“but also develop new markets in other parts of Quebec that we have not been able to service in the past.”
Naturally, such praise is sweet music to the ears of Capmatic president Alioscia Bassani.
“Our objective at Capmatic is to continuously challenge ourselves to ascertain and provide the best solution for our customers, such as Green Alley Farm,” Bassani states.
“We take pride in always delivering the best innovations and the latest technology to help companies of all size to reach their full potential.
“Our passion for excellence is our prime priority,” he concludes, “and we’ll always do whatever it takes, at all costs, to help our customers achieve real success in the markets they serve.”