Wyke Farms cheese-maker to double size of its dairy

New dairy at Wyke Farms
Image caption The new dairy will be fully operational in eight years' time

A cheddar cheese-maker is to modernise its dairy so it can grow its overseas market after Brexit.

The dairy in Wincanton, Somerset, will have extra storage space and use robotics to move cheese more easily.

Richard Clothier, owner of Wyke Farms, said: "We're rebuilding the dairy to make it super energy efficient and we can up-skill some of the jobs and take out some of the manual labour."

He said production would rise from 17,000 to 40,000 tonnes a year.

The modernisation, which will double the size of the dairy, is being partly funded by a £1.3m grant from Defra, to help UK companies expand their businesses post-Brexit.

Image caption The new dairy will have more space to store cheese

Mr Clothier, who supported Remain, said although Wyke Farms sold cheese to 160 countries, 70% of its exports were to Europe.

The hope is to expand its opportunities further afield such as China, India and the United States.

"On the Brexit front, obviously we are concerned about the European markets but in business, we need some certainty now," he said.

"We need to know the direction of travel and we'll have to adapt our strategy based on whatever we get - we have to pick ourselves up and then get on and sell cheese.

"We wouldn't want to lose our European customers in the process."

Image caption The dairy in Wincanton will be rebuilt in phases

Storage space at the dairy will be increased for its vintage cheddar, and picking and distribution space for shipping orders abroad will also be expanded.

"We developed some different ways of packing so we can extend the shelf life, in some cases up to a year, which enables us to ship anywhere in the world," Mr Clothier said.

He said using robotics would make it easier to move heavy products around, adding: "When I started making cheese it was normal to lift 30 kilo blocks (4st 7lbs) all day but nowadays maybe they're not quite as strong enough as they used to be."

Planning permission has been secured and the work will be done in phases over the next eight years so cheese production will be unaffected.

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