Coles Nurture Fund: Round 8 recipients

David Hodge at Plastic Forests

David Hodge, Plastic Forests, Albury NSW

Australian producers share in nearly $3M to grow sales and improve sustainability

Coles will provide grants to 12 small and medium sized businesses which are instigating plans to improve sustainability, rebuild after bushfires and produce more Australian food and beverages.

Plastic Forests

Albury, NSW

Recycling manufacturer Plastic Forests will receive a $300,000 grant to manufacture fence posts from recycled plastic, providing an end-to-end solution for agricultural plastic such as sileage wrap and another recycling option for soft plastics collected at Coles. 

The grant will allow the business to purchase equipment to upscale and accelerate the manufacturing of an innovative steel-reinforced plastic post to provide a sustainable fencing solution for farmers, including those affected by the bushfires. 

“The support from the Coles Nurture Fund allows us to assist farmers to re-build following the devastating bushfires and will incorporate difficult to recycle post-consumer soft plastics collected from Coles supermarkets by REDcycle,” David said.

Plastic Forests recycles the soft plastic collected by REDcycle from Coles supermarkets in north east Victoria and the Albury-Wodonga region.

On average, around 250 pieces of soft plastic and five sileage bale wraps are used to manufacture each recycled fence post. 

Steve and Christine McKay

Tumbarumba, NSW

Beef producers Steve and Christina McKay will use a $46,000 grant to purchase recycled plastic posts to re-fence five kilometres of their property after losing a substantial amount of fencing in the recent bushfires.  The electric fencing will be erected with steel-reinforced posts made by Plastic Forests from recycled plastic.

John McKay said it's been an eye-opening experience to be involved in this project with Plastic Forests. 

“Coles is certainly showing its corporate citizenship in supporting and sponsoring innovation in recycling waste products, and further driving that innovation by supporting producers affected by bushfires and other natural disasters.

“The amount of soft plastic waste product that we currently stuff into landfill in Australia is mind boggling and it’s a growing environmental concern because it will never break down.

“It's been a rewarding experience to be a part of a solution to reducing this wastage, and we're really looking forward to the completion of this project to demonstrate the real value that can be gained from a waste product,” he said.

Marcus and Rebecca Clarke

Ournie, NSW

Beef producers Marcus and Rebecca Clarke will receive a $15,500 grant to re-fence  1.5 kilometres of their property with  recycled plastic posts from Plastic Forests after losing fencing in the bushfires earlier this year. 

Bec Clarke said her family was always looking for ways to reduce its waste footprint and to re-use or re-cycle items around their farm near Tumbarumba.  

“We are very excited to be given the opportunity to try these new fence posts which will hopefully be an option for everyone in the future, and also possibly lead to more innovation in the plastic recycling arena,” she said. 

The Mount Warning Beverage Company

Tweed Valley, NSW

Mt Warning Beverage Company, better known for its two brands; Yaru Water and Mount Warning Mineral Water, will receive a $410,000 grant to install new equipment to produce a range of native botanical tonic waters which are Australian owned, sourced and made using Indigenous flavours.

“This grant will be life-changing for the diversification of our products and the sustainability of Australian Beverages,” Mt Warning Beverage Company co-founder Tessa Martin said.

“Being able to produce a range of Native Botanical Tonic Waters means that we will be working closely with farmers and producers across Australia. A real homegrown product that we can all be proud of.” 

Black River Produce

Black River, QLD

Black River Produce will use a $300,000 grant to plant locally-grownasparagus and help to reduce imports of the vegetable into Australia.

By growing 10 hectares of asparagus and installing equipment to process the produce on their farm west of Townsville, the family business will beable to produce asparagus when it is normally out of season in Australia. 

“Black River Produce is extremely pleased to receive the grant from the Coles Nurture Fund,” Black River Produce Managing Director Jon Caleo said.  

“This grant will enable us to realise the potential of growing asparagus in the tropics out of season to Australia current production period and in direct competition to imported product,” Jon Caleo, Black River Produce

Braebrook Pastoral

Willaura, Victoria

Family business Braebrook Pastoral will use a $360,000 grant to convert organic waste to renewable energy by constructing an on-farm biogas system on its pig farm.

The biogas system will capture methane and carbon dioxide emissions produced during the anaerobic breakdown of organic waste matter which comes from the  pigs. 

The project will involve building an effluent pond to capture the methane and CO2 gas emissions; and installing an Open Biogas Flare to combust flammable gasses at low ambient pressure. A Biogas system will then be installed to produce renewable energy to power the piggery.

 “We are all delighted with the approval of the grant and wish to thank Coles for their continued support of the Australian Ag sector through the Nurture Fund,” Braebrook Pastoral Company General Manager Max Vallance said. 

“This will mean our dream of producing our own power through digestion of waste, will hopefully become a reality.  Waste digestion is part of our vision of how to farm sustainably into the future by reducing costs and reducing farming emissions.” 

Beechworth Honey

Beechworth, VIC

Beechworth Honey will use a $400,000 grant to increase productivity and cost efficiencies in their honey packing facilities by installing robotic technology to streamline its operations.  

“During difficult times, the support of Coles sends a vital signal of support to our staff, our local community and Australian beekeepers. It is an endorsement of Beechworth Honey's sustainability focus and recognition of the critical importance of a strong Australian beekeeping industry and its role in Australia's food security,” Beechworth Honey Group Director Jodie Goldsworthy said.

“We are thrilled and humbled to have such strong support from Coles as we navigate difficulties presented by droughts, bushfires and Covid 19.” 

Soilkee

Hallora, Victoria

Gippsland farmers the Olsen family – who won The Weekly Times Coles Innovative Farmer of the Year in February - will use a $400,000 grant to expand its facilities and treble the manufacture of its Soilkee Renovator Units. 

The Soilkee Renovator, invented by Niels Olsen, is a revolutionary pasture cropping system that plants seeds in a unique way which improves soil structure, builds soil carbon through carbon sequestration, and increases water and nutrient retention.

“The Coles Nurture fund will help us realise our passion of providing farmers with technology that increases production and soil fertility, resulting in a profitable agriculture, with environmental benefits,” Soilkee CEO Niels Olsen said.

“This support will enable us to meet the fast-growing demand for our innovation through increased manufacture capabilities and education of the Soilkee System.” - 

Harvey Citrus

Harvey, WA

With a $174,000 grant, Harvey Citrus will extend the supply of WA-grown citrus over the summer, increase local employment and reduce imports by extending its cool room facility and acquire solar panels for their packing shed.

Harvey Citrus operations manager Andrew Pergoliti welcomed grant for his business.

“I’m speechless and very grateful to Coles that we have been considered and given this opportunity to improve and expand Harvey Citrus,” he said.

“This will fast track our plans for extending our season and supplying Coles with locally-grown citrus into the summer months for customers in Western Australia.”  

Sutton Farms

Gatton, Queensland

Sutton Farms will use a $400,000 grant to increase water and fertiliser efficiency by introducing grow bag technology and a new irrigation system for its cherry tomatoes grown in the field. 

In an innovative approach for cherry tomato production, the project aims to combine the technology benefits of protected cropping while maintaining the efficiency of field production. 

As well as increasing water and fertiliser efficiency, Sutton Farms hopes to increase productivity, reduce risk and be able to expand into new products.

“I was blown away when I heard from Coles that our Nurture Fund application had been accepted,” Sutton Farms Manager Brock Sutton said. 

“We are so excited to see this project take form and drive our business into the future.” 

Hall Stanley Premium Chestnuts

Stanley, Victoria

Hall Stanley Premium Chestnuts will save water and increase production by introducing new high-efficiency irrigation and fertigation, which reduces evaporation and increases nutrients. 

A $73,000 grant will enable the chestnut grower to irrigate and fertigate new plantings concurrently with older blocks. The quicker rotation of irrigation between blocks will improve water uptake and reduce water usage due to less evaporation and also improve nutrient uptake by the fertigation system.  

Andrew Hall from Hall Stanley Premium chestnuts said he is excited to be working with Coles on this project. 

“Their involvement and funding will assist greatly in the establishment of a high efficiency irrigation and Fertigation system. The changes to our weather patterns in the North East means irrigating earlier than before but a lot more regularly. The combination of irrigation and Fertigation will significantly improve our yield, reduce compaction and ensure our tree health into the future. 

“Without the assistance of Coles this would have taken many years to achieve by ourselves. Our grateful thanks to Coles,” he said.

Todaro Farms

Cora Lynn, Victoria

Todaro Farms will use a $78,000 grant to increase yields and quality by installing frost protection fleece and relocatable hail netting over its vegetables.  This technology will allow the family business to expand its growing areas with confidence during challenging growing conditions. 

Brothers Darren and Mark Todaro also expect it will guarantee consistent, high quality crops – particularly of silverbeet, coriander, continental parsley and parsley –during the winter months.

“We take great pride in the quality of our produce and this grant will significantly enhance our ability to manage the challenging growing conditions that the seasons bring,” Darren Todaro said. 

“Although we are a small family farm, we work hard to manage a professional operation and we are grateful that Coles can provide this support to help us grow.”