||Technology in Australia 1788-1988
Table of Contents
I Technology Transported; 1788-1840
II Technology Established; 1840-1940
i Meat Preserving: Heat Processing Introduced
ii Horticultural Products: Heat, Sugar and Solar Drying
iii Refrigeration and the Export of Meat
iv Milling and Baking
v Dairy Products
vii Sugar: Supplying an Ingredient
III The Coming Of Science
IV From Science To Technology: The Post-war Years
V Products And Processes
The new technology spelt the end of the 'village' mill. A roller mill, with the accompanying wheat handling equipment and the new ability to identify and separate mill streams, was capital intensive and required volumes of wheat which led quickly to a new centralized milling industry. It was aided and abetted, indeed, made possible, by the railways, which made the transport of wheat to mill towns and especially capital cities, much easier and financially possible. The day of the merchant mill had come.
The fully automatic, gradual reduction system, in which banks of rollers linked with well controlled purifiers and sifters continuously produced high quality white flour had reached a peak of efficiency which, in many respects, was never to be surpassed.
Though advances were made in England, especially in blending different wheats for consistent flour quality, Australian methods of wheat handling, storage, and blending did not keep pace with the rate of change in milling technology and in the 1900s were little different from those in use in the seventies. Much had been learnt about wheat, for in 1892 William James Farrer had begun to work on wheat varieties and his collaboration in the 1890s with the cereal chemist, E B. Guthrie, broke new ground in directing the breeding of wheat in the interests of the farmer, the miller, the baker, the exporter, and the consumer.
So, when Kimptons in Kensington, Victoria, began to remodel their mill in 1907, the basic requirements for the blending of wheat to produce a consistent flour from variable raw materials were known. To give them this consistency, they commissioned Henry Simon Limited in 1910 to build a silo complex to hold 6,000 tons of various wheats in such a way that grist flowing to the mill on a conveyor belt would be controllable and repeatable. It was a major advance in Australian milling and justified Kimptons' claim to a consistency in flour quality better than any other .
In the 1930s Australian exports averaged 650,000 tons per annum. They fell during the war and rose again afterwards, but the decline had begun. European and North American millers dumped flour in Australia's markets and many of the importing countries built their own flour mills and bought Australian wheat. Thus, the sixties and seventies saw the accelerating closure of Australian flour mills, those remaining supplying the virtually static home market. Obviously, survival depended on cost control and fine judgement between capital costs and improved productivity through technology. The result was the vertical integration of the industry by a limited number of large millers.
The pneumatic conveying of mill stocks was examined in the late 1930s in America and Europe but the war supervened and the system did not come to Australia until well afterwards. The cost of conversion of old mills was inhibitory but it was the obvious thing for new ones and a survey in 1978 showed that about 40 per cent of Australian mills were using it. Most mills now use flake disruptors and bran finishers to improve extraction (now 76-78 per cent) which is some 5 per cent higher in the 1980s than in the sixties; modern high capacity sifters and purifiers have tightened efficiency and consumers are more tolerant.
Organisations in Australian Science at Work - Kimpton's, Kensington, Vic.
People in Bright Sparcs - Farrer, William; Guthrie, F. B.
© 1988 Print Edition page 97, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher