FNQ farmers leading a food revolution
A Tableland business has been recognised as an agricultural leader and innovator at the AgFutures Innovation and Investment Forum held in Brisbane earlier this month.
Rob and Krista Watkins, owners of Walkamin business Natural Evolution, were awarded the prestigious Peter Kenny Medal for demonstrating excellence and leadership in the development of an innovative agricultural product and for making an outstanding contribution to advancing the sustainability of the industry.
The Watkins founded Natural Evolution Foods, which focuses on reducing the wastage of excess bananas by pioneering a new product in the form of Green Banana Flour.
This world-first product is not only gluten-free but is one of the highest resistant starch food sources in the world.
Co-owner Krista Watkins said the idea to expand the family's banana business came due to the huge amount of wastage that accumulates from unsalable ladyfinger bananas.
The family was faced with huge amounts of waste because some of their stock didn’t ripen enough and some bananas weren’t aesthetically appealing to the supermarket giants.
“Rob was rather disheartened after suffering two devastating cyclones and every week throwing away as much as 5000kg of bananas,” Mrs Watkins said.
“He was constantly thinking there must be a better way.”
It was when Rob accidentally ran over a bunch of green bananas and saw the floury dust substance that exploded out of it he found his answer; banana flour.
The Watkins created new technology to turn the bananas into flour by mechanically peeling the skins and gently milling the pulp into powder.
They soon patented their in-house designed processing technique called Nutro-Lock technology.
Nutro-Lock is able to turn any fruit or vegetable into powder in under 10 minutes, giving the produce more than three years natural shelf life.
The business has continued to evolve and now uses other produce that ordinarily would have gone to waste.
“We launched another first, Gold Sweet Potato flour in October which is reducing the waste of gold sweet potatoes grown in Queensland,” Mrs Watkins said.
“We make a range of value added products, from functional foods to cosmetics.
“Very soon we will launch Evolution Industries which has a dedicated team set up to help other producers process and innovate with their excess crops.
“It makes better economic sense to use the produce that has already been produced to create food supplies for the growing population rather than creating more farm land and contributing more waste.”
Mrs Watkins said they were delighted to receive such an important award as the Peter Kenny Medal.
“It’s recognition for the significant contribution we are making to agriculture which has the potential to change agriculture on a global scale,” she said.
“It is a privilege to represent Peter and his family in receiving this award and the mission which he was so passionate about.
“Natural Evolution will continue its mission to reduce food waste and create full circle industries right from the farm gate, delivering consumers products that they are searching for, that are functional and great for life.
“We hope to build an Agri-tourism centre in Walkamin next year and look forward to Evolution Industries creating more opportunities for farmers and consumers.”
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