Saturday, September 5, 2015

National market for frozen fruits of the valley

Richard Clark at the raspberry farm
in New Norfolk yesterday.
THE Clark family of Westerway will be the first growers in Australia to adopt new technology which will allow them to supply locally-grown frozen berries to customers on a large scale. The Clark's Westerway Raspberry Farm was yesterday announced by Coles managing director John Durkan and Premier of Tasmania Will Hodgman as the first small business in the state to receive a Coles Nurture Fund grant.

The $260,000 grant will enable the Clark family to purchase and install new technology in the form of an Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) freezer tunnel which is not currently in use in Australia for berries. The freezer will be located at Westerway. The business is based at New Norfolk and Westerway and already grows raspberry vartieties as ingredients for jams, desserts and sauces but has not been able to supply large-scale frozen berries in retail packs until now.

Mr Durkan said he was delighted Coles customers would soon be able to buy locally-grown frozen raspberries. “We were really impressed with Westerway’s vision to innovate and take on a long-standing challenge in the industry to supply frozen berries,” Mr Durkan said. “The Clarks supply some of the ingredients for great Australian products we see on our shelves but we would like to work with them directly for the first time to bring Australian frozen raspberries to consumers and help us to reduce imports.”

“We have already removed imports from our Coles Brand frozen vegetable range thanks to Tasmanian growers who supply Simplot. Now with the help of the Clark family, we hope to support another fantastic Tasmanian-grown offer for Australian consumers,” Mr Durkan said.

Richard Clark said he was excited to soon be able to supply Tasmanian-grown frozen berries on a large scale for the first time. “Our family grows beautiful raspberries here in Tasmania on our farm in the Derwent Valley. We are excited, with the help of Coles and the Coles Nurture Fund, to soon be able to freeze these berries at the peak of their summer freshness to supply Australian customers all year round,” Mr Clark said.

Coles managing director John Durkan, left, with Richard Clark,
Sandra Clark, Tom Clark and Sarah Gatenby-Clark.
Premier Will Hodgman said the partnership between Coles and the Westerway Raspberry Farm was a ground-breaking first that would put Tasmanian-grown berries in supermarket freezers around the nation. "This is a massive vote of confidence in Tasmania’s agricultural sector, which will create jobs and boost sales," Mr Hodgman said.

With the support of Coles, the Westerway Raspberry Farm will install the only berry freezer tunnel in use in Australia. It will use liquid nitrogen to individually snap-freeze each berry. "As a result, Australians will now be able to choose fresh frozen Tasmanian raspberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, blueberries and mixed berries, rather than imported frozen berries," Mr Hodgman said. "Tasmanian growers already produce all of the vegetables used in Coles’ frozen vegetable line and it’s fantastic to see that Tasmania will once again be feeding the nation, this time with frozen berries."

The premier said five full-time jobs would be created and possibly more as the Clarks look to new markets for their premium products.

Businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees can apply for the next round of funding from the Coles Nurture Fund as from September 25. More information is available at www.coles.com.au/nurturefund

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