Krista Watkins’ bananas food waste idea!

AustralianFarmers is introducing a three-part blog series by the 2018 Agrifutures Rural Woman of the Year, Krista Watkins. Read on to find out more on how Krista became Australia’s most influential rural woman with her brilliant solution to food waste.

Hi! I’m Krista. I am the Co-Founder and Managing Director at Natural Evolution. I love helping farmers come up with creative solutions to excess produce at the farm and creating highly nutritious food products from food that would have otherwise been wasted.

This week I’m here to share part 1 of my amazing journey with you. Recently I have also been awarded the prestigious Agrifutures Rural Woman of the Year Award. I look forward to sharing my journey of creating an internationally demanded product range from Walkamin, Queensland.

Krista Watkins on her farm in Walkamin, Queensland.

Opportunity not waste….

A tiny mistake that happened in the North Queensland summer 9 years ago has changed mine and my families life forever. Suffering the aftermath of two devastating category 5 cyclones within a few years on our family banana plantation certainly didn’t leave a lot of energy and passion to continue farming in the bank.

However, as most farmers know, its often easier just to keep going, do what you know and hope for a good season from our dear friends, Mother Nature and market prices. That elusive bumper year was probably just around the corner, so with hope in our hearts and the plantations recovering it was business as usual.

Now I don’t know exactly what it was that prompted this observation, or if it had been going on before the cyclones and admittedly, yes, my husband Rob had probably been saying it to me for weeks, but this Friday night I finally heard what he was saying. “they were there waiting for me again”,  he was of course referring to the native Agile wallabies, my weeks (maybe months) of osmosis listening had finally downloaded, the wallabies were waiting for the truck to dump green Lady Finger bananas.

These little Skippy’s had grown a taste for our bananas and the perplexing thing is that they would actually reach over ripe, yellow bananas just to eat the green ones! It wasn’t just the wallabies either, neighbouring cattle and wild pigs would break fences just to get to our “dump pile” of excess bananas. The question in our minds was why?

Within a few weeks it happened, Rob was loading the last of the pallets into the truck, the sun just beginning to set when he heard a strange crunch sound from under the forklift. Where most people would see a mess, Rob saw an opportunity.

It was a hand of bananas that had fallen from a carton and most likely sat on the bitumen for a few days before being accidently driven over by a daydreaming farmer.  That evening he bust through the front door shouting “taste it, taste it, it just tastes like flour!”.

“Oh no he’s gone bananas!” was my initial thought, however after about five minutes of his best persuasion tactics, I tried it, carefully dipping my finger into the pile of partially powdered and smashed bananas I taste it. He was right! It tasted exactly like flour, wholesome, earthy, no banana flavour, of course it was from bananas so it was gluten free.

This might be the perfect opportunity for our excess bananas, which was a minimum of 5tonne per week. We could easily (so we thought) turn our bananas into flour, instead of dumping them, if a cyclone came along, we could turn it into flour! This was it the “EUREKA!” moment.

Little did we know the biggest hurdles were yet to come ……

For more information on Krista’s green banana flour and her journey visit Natural Evolution Foods.

Watch this space for part two of Krista’s AustralianFarmers blog series!

Krista Watkins

Krista, along with her husband, runs the first and biggest commercial production of banana flour in the world and won the 2018 AgriFutures Rural Woman of the Year Award.

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