A South Australian organic date farm is among the latest grant recipients under the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.
Gurra Downs Date Company will use its A$414,000 grant to help increase the availability of Australian-grown dates in the heavily import-reliant domestic market.
Located in South Australia’s Riverland region, the farm is run by Dave, Anita and Shaun Reilly. The Reilly family has been growing organic produce for more than 30 years, planting salt-tolerant date trees in the early 1990s in a move to adapt to irrigation water drawn from the Gurra Gurra Wetlands.
The grant will be used to upgrade the company’s packhouse, with new equipment to help wash, dry, grade and sort the fruit set to be installed. This will help reduce extensive manual labour and increase the overall production capacity.
“We can get the fruit off the trees quickly but when we get into the packhouse everything slows down as we don’t have the right equipment to process rapidly,” Dave Reilly said.
“The grant from Woolworths will help us develop a packing facility with processing equipment that can efficiently handle higher volumes and create value-add opportunities for our fruit.
While dates are growing in popularity among Australian consumers, Reilly said local supply remains limited, with the domestic market relying on imported dates from Mexico and the US.
“Expanding our production capabilities will see more Australian-grown organic Medjool dates being consumed by Australian families, just like mine,” he explained.
The grant also marks the beginning of a new partnership, which will see Gurra Downs dates stocked in select Woolworths stores.
“We’re proud to be backing family-owned Australian businesses who are sowing the seeds to help meet the demand for organic produce in the years ahead,” said Woolworths’ commercial director of fruit and vegetables, Paul Turner.
“Over the last three years, demand for organic fruit and vegetables has increased by around 30 per cent, as customers become more interested in where their food comes from and how it’s grown.
“We will always choose Australian fruit and veg first. By supporting local growers like the Reillys, we can help customers put more Australian produce into their shopping baskets each week.”
The grant to Gurra Downs Date Company is part of A$1.1m in funding for organic growers from the latest round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.