19 June 2019
Heritage Bank CEO Peter Lock was delighted to announce today that Lockyer Valley producers Australian Organic Farmers are the first Queensland beneficiaries of an interest-free loan under the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.
The company has been granted a $220,500 interest-free loan to support the installation of a state-of-the art humidity-controlled storage facility to improve the shelf life of organic sweet potatoes and onions grown in the Lockyer Valley.
The facility will help cut food waste in the region and provide farmers with a larger storage capability, enabling them to grow more produce.
Woolworths established the Organic Growth Fund late last year in partnership with Heritage Bank - Australia’s largest customer-owned bank - to help farmers meet the growing consumer demand for organic fruit and vegetables.
Woolworths has committed to invest up to $30 million over a five-year period in the form of financial grants and interest-free loans to Australian farmers. Applicants who successfully apply to the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund for an interest-free loan are invited to apply for an interest-free loan issued by Heritage Bank.
Mr Lock said Heritage was thrilled to partner with Woolworths to enable the Fund to provide such a significant boost to the Australian agricultural sector.
“The Woolworths Organic Growth Fund is an excellent way to encourage innovation and investment in the organic sector, and to give a boost to farmers around the country.
“It’s great to see a Lockyer Valley operation benefiting from the Fund, and I’d encourage more producers from the region, and right around Australia, to apply for a grant or an interest-free loan under the scheme.”
The founder of Australian Organic Farmers - Anthony Bauer - is a fifth-generation farmer based in the Lockyer Valley. In 2003 Mr Bauer launched the Australian Organic Farmers group to provide organic growers in the region with a centralised packing and distribution facility.
Anthony Bauer said: “While the tropical weather in Queensland generally provides good growing conditions, the humidity in some months makes storing fresh produce difficult, and often results in a lot of wasted product, particularly with our sweet potatoes and onions.
“With the support of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund, we’re now able to install a humidity-controlled storage facility that will prolong the shelf life of our sweet potatoes and onions by four to five weeks, and enable us to work around weather events such as storms and heat waves.
“Ultimately, this will help ensure greater consistency of produce to consumers. It will also enable us to grow larger blocks and increase the supply of sweet potatoes and onions by 100 percent.
“With a more consistent supply of product, which is less impacted by weather patterns, we will be better placed to provide consumers with high quality organic produce at competitive prices year round.”
Woolworths Head of Produce Paul Turner added: “We’re seeing incredible growth in demand for organic fruit and vegetables, and the trend is only set to continue in the years ahead.
“Through our Organic Growth Fund, we’re delighted to be working with Australia’s best organic farmers to build the capacity that will allow us to meet the growing demand for organic produce into the future.
“Australian Organic Farmers have been one of our trusted supply partners for more than 15 years, and we’re excited to see what this new facility will unlock for their business and our mutual customers.”
Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner welcomed the announcement.
“I commend Australian Organics for their infrastructure expansion, their ongoing development and continuing focus on consumer demands,” Minister Furner said.
“The Queensland Government #eatqld campaign encourages the promotion and consumption of great Queensland produce and we are proud to have Woolworths on board as an #eatqld partner. “I look forward to seeing more produce from Australian Organics snapped, shared on social media, and of course consumed in Queensland and across the nation.”
Woolworths has now opened the second grant round of the Organic Growth Fund. Organic growers can read more about the fund and apply at www.woolworths.com.au/organicgrowthfund