ANTHONY and Diane Staatz’s innovative family owned business Koala Farms will be the focus of Queensland Country Life’s agenda setting Food Heroes event at Gatton on April 12.
The very interesting farm walk and forum will showcase the Gatton farm, enabling visitors on the day to better understand the journey of food from the farm gate to the dinner plate.
The family owned business was established in 1990 as Fresh Choice (trading as Koala Farms) on 32 hectares of land in the Lockyer Valley.
Anthony is the fifth generation to farm in the area, and along with Diane, is now producing from more than 243ha - 145ha at Gatton and 100ha, 60km away at Cambooya on the Darling Downs.
The farm at Cambooya gives the business enough diverse climate to produce vegetables 12 months of the year.
The business employs some 50 permanent staff producing 120-150 pallets a day in about 10 lines, mainly lettuce to Coles.
“We have grown a variety of different products and supplied the international and domestic markets over the years but currently our primary focus is on lettuce, twin pack baby cos, midi cos and broccoli into the chain stores and wholesale markets on the east coast of Australia,” Anthony said.
“To maintain our competitive edge as a supplier of fresh food products, we strive to provide our employees with innovative technology, effective and efficient systems.
“A HR program especially designed to suit the training needs of our business to create a progressive team and workplace environment promoting a culture of working together to get the best possible outcomes for both the business and the employee.
“Our aim is to strive to produce safe and consistent supplies of produce that meets our customer’s expectations, with a level of efficiency that ensures high quality products at a competitive price all the time.”
About 70 per cent of product is supplied to Coles supplier Fresh Select in Werribee, Victoria. The balance of the production goes to Harvest Freshcuts for processing and packaging, and wholesaling.
An critical component of the Koala Farms business is the retractable roof on the Cravo greenhouse, which provides climate controlled growing conditions. The nursery produces some 500,000 plants a week, a key to the 12 month production schedule.
This ability to “move the sky” when needed gives the sophisticated vegetable growing business enough flexibility to produce vegetables year round.
“By moving the sky instead of moving the plants, we can react to each weather condition in a flexible way to achieve the best climate for our crops,” Anthony said.
“This way, we can supply customers with consistent vegetable quality 12 months a year. That’s what differentiates us from most others.”
Compared to Gatton, the climate in Cambooya is drier and receives less rainfall throughout the year.
“This combination of locations gives our business enough climate diversity to produce vegetables 12 months of the year,” Anthony Staatz said.
The lettuce is packaged in field, labelled, put on pallets and then sent to a coolroom, where it is stored at 4-5C before being transported,
The Food Heroes day will also feature notable guest speakers including Growcom chief executive officer Pat Hannan, Tim O’Grady from Bayer, and Fresh Select marketing expert John Said.
Lettuce is an important horticultural crop in Australia, with an annual production more than 160 million tonnes and a total gross value of well over $150 million. Lettuce is also one of the most popular crops, regularly bought by more than 80 per cent of Australian consumers.
After the presentations are delivered, questions will be invited from the audience in what promised to be a highly information Q&A session.
The forum from the Food Heroes event will also be live-streamed on the Queensland Country Life website: queenslandcountrylife.com.au on Wednesday, April 12.