A group of forward-thinking growers and entrepreneurs in North Queensland are working together to create a new value-added ginger and turmeric industry on the Atherton Tablelands.

Local businesswoman, and Founder and Managing Director of SassyBio, Rhonda Sorensen has led the charge, bringing together a wide range of industry stakeholders to three workshops since April. From the get-go, the program has taken a collaborative approach to building a new industry.

Ms Sorensen said, to take advantage of emerging opportunities, industry needs to work together to value-add and establish a regional profile as a turmeric hub on the Tablelands.

Growcom has been working closely with industry to present the workshops that have featured speakers from a diverse range of research groups. Experts and industry leaders have provided insights into the value-added turmeric industry and practical steps to move the program forward.

A staggering 50+ growers have expressed interest in participating in the program, providing excellent prospects for reliable supply.

Tablelands local and successful businessman Doug English has also embraced the program. Having built a global presence in the nutraceutical turmeric space, Doug is looking to source locally grown turmeric powder and by products for his hugely popular international health products.

Health and Wellness 

Growcom’s Hort360 Innovation Coach, Steve Tiley said the timing for the project is sublime.

“Over the last several years, growth of health and wellness products has skyrocketed and that trend isn’t looking like
stopping anytime soon,” he said.

“In fact, the industry is touted as being the next worldwide trillion-dollar industry.

“But this doesn’t guarantee success. Building any business, particularly in an emerging industry, isn’t an easy challenge. It takes a range of motivated and capable people to bring something to reality. And that’s where the cooperative model works so well. While not all cooperatives succeed – and there are many examples of those that didn’t – done right, it becomes a robust way forward, particularly for smaller growers.”

Regional considerations are also important, said Mr Tiley since there are several benefits of these crops in the region.

“Gingers and turmerics are crops that have high-value, small environmental footprint and a range of ‘in demand’ commercial products within the rapidly expanding health and wellness sector,” he said.

Australian Grown and Made 

A significant risk to the program is competition.

India currently produces over 80 per cent of worldwide turmeric supply and at far lower cost than can be achieved in Australia under small-scale cooperative production.

To combat this, the program plans to leverage Australia’s, and more specifically the Atherton Tableland’s, strong clean and green image, to differentiate their products from competitors and attract higher prices.

Growcom has jumped in to provide the necessary support new growers need to start from environmental best practice. Using the Hort360 program, growers in the program will be mentored through best management practice modules to help build and support their environmentally friendly image.

Growcom Hort360 BMP Facilitator Lindsay Allen said Hort360 was a fantastic tool for all growers – both established and those just starting out “By implementing best practice into farm design and operation, growers can not only protect and enhance their environment, but they can greatly reduce their production costs and minimise operational risk,” he said.

Next steps

The program is now forging ahead with plans to create a processing facility, designed to turn raw produce into high quality powdered product.

By building and running the industry locally, a number of new jobs and opportunities will benefit the regional economy.

Mr Allen said this is where the cooperative model really shines.

“By pooling resources, the group intends to enthusiastically market clean and green Australian ginger and turmeric value-added products to health food companies domestically and abroad,” he said.

“The face of agriculture is changing and there are many risks and opportunities to farmers, particularly small-scale producers.

“As the peak body for horticulture in Queensland, Growcom is committed to building local fruit, vegetable and nut industries and the regional economies they support.“

Mr Allen said it’s forward-thinking groups, such as this, that will underpin Australia’s economy into the future.

“Growcom will continue to engage with motivated groups to help solidify their place in the agricultural sector,” he said.

Meanwhile, Ms Sorensen said working with Growcom has provided the program with resources, networks and confidence to “make this project a reality.”

Growcom gives special thanks to the Training in Emerging and Innovative Industries (TEII) and Tablelands Regional Council for helping sponsor the program’s admin, promo, food and venue costs.

The Hort360 Great Barrier Reef (GBR) project is managed by Growcom and funded by the Queensland Government Reef Water Quality program.