A Lockyer Valley farming group have become the first Queensland beneficiaries of a program between Woolworths and Heritage Bank to support organic growers.
Australian Organic Farmers in the Lockyer Valley will receive a $220,500 interest-free loan from the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund to help them install a humidity-controlled storage facility to improve the shelf life of organic sweet potatoes and onions grown in the region.
The facility will help cut food waste in the region and provide farmers with a larger storage capability, enabling them to grow more produce.
Australian Organic Farmers founder Anthony Bauer, a fifth-generation farmer, started the group in 2003 to provide organic growers in the region with a centralised packing and distribution facility.
"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," he said.
"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."
Woolworths assistant state director Peta Nutley said consumer demand for organic produce was growing.
"We know that organics are growing 20pc year on year and by partnering with Anthony and small farming businesses that we will be able to meet our consumers' demands," she said.
Queensland Minister for Agricultural Industry Development and Fisheries Mark Furner said the fund was a great initiative to help support organic farmers.
"I commend Australian Organics for their infrastructure expansion, their ongoing development and continuing focus on consumer demands," he said.