Friday, June 14, 2024

Woolies awards grant to organic date farm

Woolworths has awarded a $414,000 grant to a family-owned South Australian organic date farm.

The grant to Gurra Downs Date Company is part of a total of $1,140,000 in funding for organic growers from the latest round of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund.

Located in South Australia’s Riverland region, Gurra Downs Date Company is run by Dave, Anita and Shaun Reilly. The family have 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.

While dates are growing in popularity among Australian consumers, says Woolworths, local supply remains limited with the domestic market relying on imported dates from countries like Mexico and the US to meet demand.

The grant will see the Reilly’s packhouse receive a power upgrade and new equipment to help wash, dry, grade and sort the fruit, reducing extensive manual labour and increasing their 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,” says Dave Reilly.

“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.

“Expanding our production capabilities will see more Australian-grown organic Medjool dates being consumed by Australian families, just like mine.”

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,” says Woolworths Commercial Director of Fruit & Veg Paul Turner.

“Over the last three years, demand for organic fruit and vegetables has increased by around 30%, 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.”

Other recipients

Adelaide Hills business SA Organic Strawberries has also received a $232,000 grant from Woolworths’ Organic Growth Fund to install packing shed technology that helps cools strawberries quickly, extracting heat once they’re picked to retain quality and extend shelf-life for customers.

In addition, the Fund has provided a $500,000 interest-free loan to Victorian business Butler Market Greens. The loan will help the business double its organic production and increase water efficiency through irrigation upgrades and expansion.

Round six of the Woolworths Organic Growth Fund is now open. Woolworths is inviting farmers to apply by 28 February.

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