Daniel Pereira contributing to Open Country’s decarbonisation journey

Daniel Pereira has come on board at Open Country to help the company to become more efficient, with decarbonisation and processing improvements being a core focus. It is a role that is quite simply a perfect fit for someone who wants to make a difference.

Joining around 18-months ago as an Energy Graduate, Daniel came on board as part of the EECA graduate programme. He hit the ground running and hasn’t looked back, being promoted to the new position of Energy Projects Engineer in July 2022.

Originally from the Waikato, Daniel completed a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Waikato. A graduate programme was always in his sight but he didn’t know about the opportunities at Open Country. What he did know was that he wanted to work on environmentally sustainable projects of significance. This is exactly the role he found.

Graduate opportunities in the energy sector are competitive. For Daniel, he was placed in the top 10 for his video interview and then shortlisted to four candidates for in-person meetings. Daniel was offered the job on Christmas Eve in 2020 and started soon after.

What appealed to Daniel about the role was seeing where it was on its decarbonisation journey, which is hugely important to its business and role in the dairy industry. He was especially interested to learn the company had the largest electrode boiler in the Southern Hemisphere, located at their Awarua site. The boiler uses renewable electricity to generate steam supply for Awarua’s milk dryers.

Open Country Supports new Grads

Daniel had the opportunity to sit down with Chief Executive Steve Koekemoer before starting in his role to really learn about the company and its values. He says it was evident how good the company culture was from the start, and he was given autonomy in his role early on while being supported from the top.

“There is a lot of respect between the senior management and staff, right down to the graduates,” says Daniel.

Working with General Manager of Strategic Projects and Technical, Jason Tarrant and the projects team has already made a tremendous impact on Daniel’s career progression.

Daniel says Jason empowers everyone to make their own decisions and his approach is that if an idea is worthwhile, he is to present it himself, signalling his intent rather than asking for permission.


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“The theory is, if you signal intent, you've done your due diligence and you're ready to put yourself on the line,” he says.

“Sometimes you have to fail safely, but you also get to own your successes as well.”

Daniel considers himself lucky. He doesn’t have a set mentor, but instead has the entire projects team as mentors.

“We are a lean team but everyone has their own unique skillsets.”

“There’s just so much knowledge shared and so much to learn,” he says.

Decarbonisation Projects of Significance

Already, Daniel has worked on some big projects in the time he has been with Open Country.

“The most exciting one I'm working on is in Awarua. We are still running two coal boilers here and have got the vision to achieve 100% reduction in coal, so it’s a pretty cool thing to be a part of,” Daniel says.

Installing an electrode boiler at Awarua that uses renewable energy to generate steam, has eliminated the need for thousands of tonnes in coal during the first season of the boiler running.

Cold water can be heated to full steam in less than five minutes, compared to six hours with a coal-fired boiler. The steam is used for preheating, pasteurising, and cleaning equipment.

Now Open Country is looking to replace the company’s last two coal boilers at Awarua with renewable energy centres in the future. 

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What Lies Ahead

In a role like Daniel’s, the challenges change week to week. However, he says the biggest challenge facing the decarbonisation work he is doing alongside his team is ensuring the right infrastructure is ready to support fuel switch projects. Without the infrastructure in place, the projects can’t go ahead.

But that’s where Daniel is realistic. He’s in it for the long haul with Open Country and is excited about seeing the projects he is working on come to fruition. For some projects, it might take a few years.

In the meantime, Daniel says he’s busy smashing out the low hanging fruit with his team, finding areas where they can reduce their emissions across the business. The low hanging fruit has meant Daniel’s been able to complete several small-scale efficiency projects, such as installing thermal insulation on steam fittings across all the sites.

He also knows he’s part of a company set to become a leader in the energy sector. And because of that, Daniel has not only found his first job but gained a sense of purpose.

“You come to work, knowing that you can put your name on something and be proud of it.”