The world’s smallest mobile mini-cheese making factory has been launched.
It’s small enough to fit on the average driveway and has been designed to help farmers and other food producers start up in business.
Derby based MCE Engineering has converted a box van from Ifor Williams Trailers.
The trailer, which is seven feet high, 10 feet long and just under six feet wide, has been transformed into a fully equipped cheese making facility called The Little Cheesery.
As creameries go, it’s small but perfectly formed – and even has its very own clean room.
The aim is to give farmers and budding food entrepreneurs the chance to try a new business venture at a fraction of the cost and the risk.
Peter Nesbitt, the Business Development Manager at Ifor Williams Trailers, is delighted with the ingenious conversion.
He said: "The box van is an extremely versatile business tool and people use them and adapt them for all sorts of applications - the Little Cheesery is a fantastic example of this.
"Our box vans can be found all over the world in a fantastic range of uses including
transporting hot air balloons and moving vintage motorbikes.
"One enterprising customer has converted our box van into a mobile blacksmith’s forge which are then used by farriers.
According to Pete Murray, 46, director of MCE Engineering, it’s the first mobile mini-creamery of its size in the world and can produce up to 35 kilos of cheese a day.
Mr Murray has been working with his team on the design for 18 months.
He said: "I think we would be really happy if this product helped farmers to diversify and members of the public develop a new venture or even a new branch to their existing business.
"We hope The Little Cheesery will encourage people to try a new business venture at a time when they perhaps thought that option wasn’t open to them and it was out of their reach.
"Within six weeks of choosing your specification and with the aid of our training partners you could literally set it up in your back garden."
MCE Engineering has a long track record of working with the cheese industry and Mr Murray said the idea for the mobile unit came after listening to their customers’ concerns that start up costs for a full scale cheese making facility were just too high and the timescales too long.
He added: "When you look at the costs of setting up such a business, after you have paid for planning permission, converted a building and installed all the necessary equipment, you can be looking at more than £60,000 with no chance of any payback for sometimes well over a year.
"There would be very little chance of recouping any of your investment should you decide it’s not for you or you need to change production size.
"However, because our unit is so unique and adaptable the residual value will always be strong, making it an excellent investment."
The Little Cheesery costs in the region of £40,000 dependent on specification and will also be available for hire.
It was unveiled for the first time at the International Cheese Awards at the Nantwich Show where visitors were able to see for themselves how the mini factory worked.
Milk is piped through the side of the box van into a large vat where it is warmed to start the cheese making process.
It has all the equipment necessary inside the trailer to then extract the whey from the curd and press into the final delicious product before it then goes into a storage area.
There is even a special space for the cheese maker to get changed and wash their hands before starting.
While The Little Cheesery can be hooked up easily to a static water and power supply, its real beauty is that it can be taken on the road with only a small diesel heater and 240 volt generator complete with water storage, which can all be supplied with the trailer. It can then be parked up in the middle of the remotest field and still be used effectively.
It’s hoped The Little Cheesery will have uses aside from encouraging more budding British cheese makers to give the business a try.
Mr Murray explained: "We believe it will be a useful training tool for schools, colleges and universities and will encourage them to hold cheese making courses both in house and also in rural areas.
"It can also be used at exhibitions and markets so producers can showcase their produce while demonstrating how they make it or it may be useful to them when they are trialling a new cheese to help prevent cross contamination with their existing product line."
Mr Murray will also be exploring ways in which the mobile factory can be used among cooperatives of farmers or food producers, further keeping costs down for small business owners who will effectively share one amongst them.
Mr Murray chose the trailer because of the name and reputation of Ifor Williams Trailers.
He said: "Ifor Williams Trailers is the name that springs to mind when you consider a trailer of any sort because they have such a good reputation worldwide. The box van just seemed the obvious product to choose when we were looking at developing this product.
"The trailer’s robust structure and high specification materials give us an excellent platform from which to work."
To find out more about The Little Cheesery or MCE Engineering go to www.thelittlecheesery.com or www.mceengineering.co.uk or call 01332 366228. To find out more about Ifor WilliamsTrailers go to www.iwt.co.uk or call 01490 412527.
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