Infrastructure funding from the Palaszczuk Government has helped a Bundaberg fruit and vegetable farm set out on the path to increase its production by 400%.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Swan Ridge Farms at Meadowvale was one of 15 businesses in Queensland to receive up to a $250,000 Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant to help fund the expansion of their business and create job growth in regional areas.
Queensland’s fruit and vegetables have a worldwide reputation as ‘clean and green’ produce,” the Premier said.
“It’s testament to the focus on quality taken by Swan Ridge Farms that they are able to export their capsicums, zucchinis, rockmelon and watermelon to New Zealand, which has its own reputation for high quality food.
“Thanks to their successful application for a RED Grant, Swan Ridge will now be able to increase its supply to domestic and export markets by up to 400%.”
“With greater supply comes a bigger workforce, which will increase by 12 full time roles as a result of this infrastructure investment.”
The Premier said the Rural Economic Development Grant program offered emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions.
“These grants help to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector, meaning more jobs in a stronger Queensland economy,” the Premier said.
“The $10 million program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period through to 2021.
“15 businesses have received $3.3 million under the first-round of funding for the RED Grant program, and between them are expected to create more than 600 jobs across the agricultural sector in regional Queensland.”
Swan Ridge Farms manager Brent Attard said some of the roles included truck drivers, fork lift operators, cardboard machine operators, refrigeration owners and operators, designers for packaging services, packing services, sorting, grading, value adding produce, marketing and promotion.
“We are a vibrant family-owned and operated farm, based in the diverse and rapidly expanding ‘food bowl’ of the Wide Bay-Burnett,” Mr Attard said.
“Our vision is to significantly expand our current production to tap into emerging export opportunities, create long-term reliable employment for local people in the Wide Bay-Burnett region, and to continue to be a regionally significant stakeholder in production horticulture.
“This project is a game changer, drastically improving how our produce is processed post-harvest and how we manage produce supply, and our employees.”
The project involves plans to expand and fit-out a purpose-built, post-harvest handling facility, creating long-term skilled employment opportunities, skill acquisition and capacity building opportunities specific to horticulture and post-harvest handling, and regional industry confidence in the ability for family owned and operated horticulture growers to thrive.
Funding for Round 2 of the RED Grants will be announced later this year.
The Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administer the RED Grant scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.