TASTE TEST: Page MP Kevin Hogan visited Oneva Holdings' Stuart Picken in Alstonville to discuss the construction of a new $300,000 macadamia chesse-making facility.
TASTE TEST: Page MP Kevin Hogan visited Oneva Holdings' Stuart Picken in Alstonville to discuss the construction of a new $300,000 macadamia chesse-making facility. Marc Stapelberg

Vegans to go nuts over this macadamia cheese

TEN new local jobs are coming to the Northern Rivers as part of a new $300,000 macadamia cheese-making facility in Alstonville.

Page MP Kevin Hogan announced the Federal Government has provided $147,000 to kick start the innovative project during a visit to Eva Artisans' future production site yesterday.

"This is a really exciting project because it is going to cater for the vegan market," Mr Hogan said.

"We are the home of macadamias in this country, so to value add to this product, this will create more jobs and more industry in our region as well, so I am really excited about it."

The project includes a purpose-built extension with automated plant and equipment to an existing rural facility.

"This will allow the company to produce a macadamia-nut based cheese using fermentation and related plant-based ingredients for domestic and international vegan and lactose-intolerant consumers," Mr Hogan said.

CEO Eva Artisans Stuart Picken said this niche facility was the first of its kind in the State.

"Most of the vegan cheese in Australia is imported from Greece but there are some artisan nut cheese producers becoming more prevalent," Mr Picken said.

"It certainly is a big thing for the Northern Rivers, to value add to the macadamia nuts that are produced and grown (here)."

Mr Picken has been working in the food industry for 25 years and said he is excited to start this new venture.

"(My) business plan is to make the product available nationwide, possibly export it, look to develop some harder cheddar based cheese, (and) train new workers through TAFE and college," he said.

Mr Hogan said the funding comes as part of the Federal Governments $17 million investment into the Regional Jobs and Investment Program.

"This project and the other eight job-creating projects I announced last month are game changers for our community," he said.

"Together they will create more than 1000 new local jobs and in terms of wages, will bring in an additional $50 million into our community every year."

Before they can begin construction of the new factory, Mr Picken needs to get his Development Application approved by the Ballina Shire Council which he hopes will be in the next two weeks.

The macadamia cheese product is already being used and produced at Curly Kale in Byron Bay .



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