Roger's Story

Artisa Cheese is the business Roger Martyn became involved with in 2016.  After a year involving research and development as a home based business in Longford, Artisa set up its production facilities in Prospect, Launceston.

Business:

Artisa makes plant based cheeses from cashew nuts.  It caters to a growing market demand for plant based food products.  

The cheeses Artisa produce are vegan friendly but also appeal to those looking for non-dairy alternatives either because of health or philosophical reasons.  Artisa finds they are also appealing to the many tourists who visit Tasmanian, those interested in experiencing something that is unique and made in Tasmania.  

Most of the varieties Artisa produces are flavoured with locally sourced ingredients such as Tasmanian produced truffles or Tasmanian produced saffron.

A major issue for Artisa’s business profitability is that because  the cheeses they make are largely hand-crafted,  the labour component of  their variable production costs tend to be high. Yet Artisa products still has to compete in a market place where the price the cheeses sell for is largely determined  and dominated by large food manufactures. Their production systems tend to be highly automated and are produced much more cost effectively per cheese. Unfortunately automation typically requires very large capital inputs up front and then high output rates to justify them being used. Automation thus presents a  major challenges to a small business such as Artisa. 

Knowing it couldn’t afford extensive automation, Artisa carefully examined each stage of its existing production focusing particularly on those processes that were labour intensive, particularly in terms of time spent. The process  used for vacuum packing individual cheeses was identified as one such instance. The existing procedure used involved placing a cheese that had already been placed in a specialised plastic ‘channel’ bag and then putting the open end of that bag  into a bench top vaccum sealing machine.  This machine sucked the air from the bag then heat sealed shut. This procedure typically took 30 to 40 seconds per individual cheese to do. With the total cost of labour (includes super, insurance etc) being approximately $30/hr, this represented a cost due to labour alone of  25 to 27 cents per cheese

To increase the throughput of this procedure, they found there were ‘vacuum chamber’ machines that do the same job at four cheeses at a time. The added bonus was that the plastic bags required cost a little under half those required for the existing system.

With the aid of the NILS loan, they were able to source a suitable vacuum chamber machine and import it directly from China.  Importing conservatively saved them two thirds of what a comparable machine would have cost if sourced locally.

They are now very easily able to  achieve four times the output compared to previously.

This represents a saving of 49.5 cents per cheese once both the  cost of labour and savings in plastic bags are accounted for. For the NILS loan of $3000 the cost of payback requires a throughput of only a little over 6000 cheeses  making it a thoroughly viable proposition.

The benefits of the NILS program to Roger go beyond those just described. The NILS application process requiring you to submit a business plan which disciplines one look at every aspect of the business and ask yourself even why you’re doing it. Implementation of the loan itself makes you analyse the business operation yet again, this time in a perhaps less theoretical light to that of the business plan - as you want the loan to work for you. These other benefits are perhaps the real value of the NILS  scheme.