Embracing a green future

Whether it’s growing tomatoes in the desert or turning discarded plastic into farm fencing, these forward-looking producers are showing that sustainability is the way to go.

Sundrop Farms CEO Steve Marafiote

Sundrop Farms CEO Steve Marafiote: Water is sourced from the ocean and desalinated.

Home-grown heroes: Australian Eatwell

Who they are: Established in 1990, Australian Eatwell is based in Donald, country Victoria, and produces a range of vegan and vegetarian products including soy tofu (under the Nature’s Kitchen Tofu brand) and vegetable burgers, including sweet potato and black bean and vegetable koftas. The company is a proud regional producer.

What makes them different: A pioneer of vegetarian burgers in Australia, Australian Eatwell is constantly developing fresh, healthy and easy-to-use products for customers.

Thinking outside the box: Thanks to a $200,000 grant from the Coles Nurture Fund, Australian Eatwell is reinventing tofu by using locally grown chickpeas rather than imported soybeans. Company founder Nathan Harris says that as a Donald native he always wanted to relocate the business from Melbourne. “I knew we could source legumes, chickpeas and lentils from this area,” he says.

You can find the Nature's Kitchen range here.

Philip and Con Damianopoulos from Masalki.

Philip and Con Damianopoulos from Masalki.

Being water-wise: Masalki

Who they are: Masalki is a specialist apple and pear producer, with several farms in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley. The company traces its origins to 1948 when the Damianopoulos family planted its first orchards. Today, six members of the Damianopoulos family are still working in the business.

What makes them different: As third-generation apple and pear growers, Masalki are passionate about what they do – which is growing the best fruit possible.

Thinking outside the box: Using a $400,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant, the company has installed the latest cool-room technology, developed in Italy, to preserve its apples and pears while drastically cutting its use of water and plastic packaging.  “This new technology removes the impact of dehydration and ensures that the fruit comes out just as nice as the day we picked it,” says co-owner Philip Damianopoulos.


Farming on the edge: Sundrop Farms

Who they are: Located on the Spencer Gulf in South Australia, this solar-powered farm grows great-tasting hydroponic truss tomatoes which are sold in Coles supermarkets nationwide.

What makes them different: The 20 hectares of glasshouses that make up Sundrop Farms have been designed to have minimal impact on the environment – water is sourced from the ocean and desalinated, while the site is powered by its own solar facility.

Thinking outside the box: Farming in such a remote and dry location takes an enormous amount of courage and Sundrop Farms has brought this vision to every aspect of the operation – from cooling to insect control. “We’ve been able to demonstrate that it is possible to take non-agricultural land and make it highly productive,” says CEO Steve Marafiote. The project has also seen 300 new jobs created, including employment, in the region.

Plastic Forests: Recycling soft plastics to make sturdy fence posts. 

Brilliant fencing solutions: Plastic Forests

Who they are: Based in North Albury, NSW, Plastic Forests manufactures a range of useful products, such as garden edging, fence posts and mounting blocks for air-conditioning units, using recycled soft plastic waste.

What makes them different: Plastic Forests has developed a unique dry cleaning process that allows it to recycle unwanted soft plastics without using water or chemicals.

Thinking outside the box: Armed with a $300,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant, the company is installing new equipment to manufacture sturdy fence posts from recycled soft plastic for Australian farmers, including those affected by bushfires. “As a society, we need to think smarter about how we use plastic through its whole life cycle,” says Managing Director David Hodge.

Methane magicians: Braebrook Pastoral

Who they are: Braebrook Pastoral is a well-established mixed farming business located at Willaura in western Victoria. The family-run farm includes cropping (mostly canola, wheat, barley and oats), sheep and 1000 Landrace-cross sows.

What makes them different: As a company, Braebrook Pastoral fully supports sustainable farming practices, reducing its reliance on herbicides and introducing innovative weed management technology instead.

Thinking outside the box: Using a $360,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant, the company is installing its own biogas system – thus providing sustainable energy for the whole farm. The system captures methane and carbon dioxide emissions from pig waste. “Waste digestion is part of our vision of how to farm sustainably into the future by reducing costs and reducing farming emissions,” says General Manager Max Vallance.