A farm near Lismore will make popular Eureka blueberries available to customers for an additional four months each year and create 20 new jobs, with support from the Coles Nurture Fund.
Natalie Bell and her husband Paul Lloyd will use a $400,000 interest-free loan to invest in equipment to grow new varieties of Eureka blueberries, which will produce fruit earlier in the season.
Natalie and Paul will plant six early season varieties of Eureka blueberries and grow them hydroponically in pots under protective tunnels. This is the first time this growing method will be used on a large scale for blueberries in Australia.
Eureka blueberries were developed by Natalie’s father, Ridley Bell, who helped to establish the blueberry industry in Australia around 40 years ago. The jumbo blueberry variety Eureka is known for its size, sweetness, and consistent quality and was introduced to Australian consumers exclusively through Coles in 2014.
Support from the Nurture Fund is allowing us to get moving on the project straight away.Natalie Bell
Natalie and Paul established their own blueberry and raspberry farms near Lismore three years ago, and currently supply Eureka blueberries to Coles from August to November.
“Eureka blueberries have received a really positive response from customers. The problem we have now is that when Eureka blueberries aren’t in season, customers wonder where they are,” Natalie said.
“By investing in and growing new early-season Eureka varieties, we will be able to supply the popular blueberries to customers from as early as April – four months earlier than current supply. We’ll also employ around 20 additional people at the farm to help with picking and packing the berries.”
As part of the project, Natalie and Paul will also install a purpose-built cool room to allow rapid cooling of the berries as soon as they are harvested.
Coles Managing Director John Durkan congratulated Natalie and Paul on their innovative approach to farming.
“Our customers love Eureka blueberries, so we’re thrilled that this project will help Natalie and Paul to grow their business and allow them to supply more Eureka blueberries for more months of the year,” he said.
Natalie said support from the Nurture Fund would allow her and Paul to fast-track the project at their farm.
“We are aiming to have the plants growing in substrates by June this year and to install the tunnels for protected cropping by next year. All going to schedule, we will be able to deliver early season Eureka blueberries for customers to enjoy in 2019,” Natalie said.
...we’re thrilled that this project will help Natalie and Paul to grow their business and allow them to supply more Eureka blueberries for more months of the year.John Durkan, Managing Director, Coles
Coles Managing Director John Durkan said he was pleased the Nurture Fund could support Arahura Farms to grow its business.
“Coles has offered organic products in our supermarkets for around 20 years as part of our commitment to providing our customers with choice and we have certainly seen customer demand increase in the past few years,” he said.
“It’s great to see Arahura Farms looking for opportunities to expand and that’s why we wanted to support them with a Nurture Fund grant. This funding will help to boost productivity at the farm and promote the production of even more organic produce for consumers.”