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Organic family farm to boost productivity using $300,000 Coles grant

A $300,000 Coles Nurture Fund grant will enable a Victorian family farm to expand into new organic products by freeing up resources formerly dedicated to packaging.

Arahura Farms, located north-west of Swan Hill in Victoria, is using the grant to install automated processing and packaging equipment, freeing up staff hours that can be redirected to on-farm production.

Established by Tony and Jennie Croft in 2001, Arahura Farms is now one of the largest producers of organically-grown vegetables in Australia and is already the biggest employer in the Nyah district with 10 full-time employees and up to 45 casual employees each week.

Tony said the investment in automated processing and packaging equipment for product lines including organic carrots, beetroot and mini cos lettuce, would boost productivity and allow the business to expand.

“Previously all of our carrot orders have been hand-packed. With the new technology, we’ll be able to reduce the time it takes to pack our carrot orders from seven hours per day, to just two hours,” Tony said.

This project will allow us to free up staff in the packing shed and upskill them to work in the field planting and harvesting crops, which will boost our overall production.
Tony Croft, Arahura Farms

Formerly an engineer, Tony said he was driven to organic farming because he wanted to produce good quality food for people to enjoy.

“I decided to put my money where my mouth is and have a good crack at producing good food for the masses. Having grandkids has highlighted this determination, because my wife and I want to be able to help mums and dads feed their kids good food,” Tony said.

As consumer demand for organic produce increases, funding from the Coles Nurture Fund will also free up capital for Arahura Farms to irrigate an additional 100 hectares of land.

Tony and Jennie Croft, Arahura Farms

Arahura Farms has been supplying organic produce to Coles since January 2016 and is currently in trials to grow mini cos lettuce for Coles in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales.

“This new line is good for our business because it means we aren’t so reliant on one major crop like carrots,” Tony said.

By easing pressure on other parts of the business, Tony said the Coles Nurture Fund grant has also allowed Arahura to consider expanding into other vegetables including broccoli.

“With this new technology, we will be able to look at a range of other opportunities we haven’t been able to consider before because we didn’t have the resources,” he said.

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.
John Durkan, Managing Director, Coles

“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.”

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