LacPatrick co-op has announced that it is to invest £30m in its Artigarvan-based value-added dairy ingredients plant.

The new facility at the Co. Tyrone site is to create up to 15 jobs and will have one of the lowest carbon footprints of its kind in Western Europe.

The plant will also more than double capacity in response to emerging market demand in southeast Asia and Africa.

The investment – the largest within the Ulster dairy sector in a generation – will see the Artigarvan site benefit from state-of-the-art dairy processing technology using the recently announced Strabane Gas link as its primary source of energy.

The majority of the 15 jobs will be based at Artigarvan.

Work has begun already on the site and it is expected it will be fully operational by April 2017.

As a result of the new investment, LacPatrick Artigarvan, which currently has a daily processing capacity of 1m litres of liquid milk bound for global dairy markets, will be able to increase capacity to 2.5m litres.

A new evaporation and spray drying tower has been specifically designed to make advanced dairy ingredients for the rapidly expanding markets in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia and will be accommodated within a new 30,000sq ft building within the current Artigarvan site, according to LacPatrick.

At its peak the 15-month construction project – to be delivered by a number of local contractors – will provide employment for more than 150 construction workers.

The indirect benefit to the local economy is expected to be significant, LacPatrick states, on top of the direct farm payments of £120m and direct labour at the facility – providing a real boost to the economy of west Ulster.

Speaking about the investment, Tommy Thompson, Operations Director, LacPatrick Group, said the Artigarvan plant has been exporting high-quality milk powders for decades to more than 30 countries worldwide.

“Our milk pool is growing rapidly and our members were keen we develop a sustainable and effective facility that will enable them to secure routes to primary export markets.

“We have already established a reputation of excellence and we see this as a real opportunity to push this out even further globally when the plant is up and running in 2017.

“This is an exciting announcement to make on the back of our recent merger and evidences the strength of the newly combined entities,” he said.