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Queensland’s largest summer strawberry producer, Eastern Colour will expand their protected cropping system to increase production and keep up with consumer demand.

Baronio family

Based in Applethorpe, Eastern Colour is a family owned and operated farming enterprise who grows and packs apples, pears, strawberries and blackberries directly to major retailers across the eastern states of Australia year-round.

Eastern Colour were one of 15 businesses to receive a grant of up to $250,000 under Round Three of the Rural Economic Development (RED) Grant program administered by the Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA).

General Manager Nathan Baronio said the upgrade to the cropping system would extend their strawberry harvest period of up to 10 months.

“Our project aims to upgrade the infrastructure of our strawberry production which will increase farm efficiency, improve quality, decrease waste, reduce our environmental impacts and help meet the growing demand for summer strawberries in Queensland,” Mr Baronio said.

“We will expand our substrate production over an additional 15 acres, for a total of 40 acres grown using this technique.

“This innovative protected cropping system combined with the cool climate of the Granite Belt allows for an extended harvest period of up to 10 months every year,” he said.

The substrate production system protects strawberries from environmental conditions, such as rainfall which can cause produce to become unmarketable.

“The primary issue with strawberries in the Granite Belt is our climate. We receive a majority of our rainfall during the strawberry season and each rain event causes 60 per cent of the ripe fruit to become unmarketable,” Mr Baronio said.

“Soil grown strawberries under polycarbonate plastic result in eventual production losses due to salt and disease build up.

“Substrate ‘tables’ eliminate these factors and as a result, we gain increased and consistent strawberry production for longer,” he said.

The extension of Eastern Colour’s substrate cropping system will allow the business to remain competitive while supporting local job opportunities in the region.

“Eastern Colour strives for continual improvement across all its business activities and understands the critical need to implement the latest technology, innovations and techniques through the operations to improve efficiencies.

The project is expected to create up to 55 direct and indirect jobs during and post establishment of the expanded strawberry production area.

 

“After completion, this project will enable our rural business to remain competitive for the long-term future, as well as continue to employ more local staff to support more local businesses,” he said.

The Rural Economic Development (RED) Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector. The $10 million grants program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period ending 2021.

A total of 15 businesses have received $3.14 million under the third round of funding for the RED Grants program. Overall, these projects are expected to create more than 600 jobs across the agricultural sector in regional Queensland.

Across the three rounds of the RED Grant program, a total of 43 agricultural businesses have received funding toward economic development projects worth $40.8 million and estimated to create 1,897 new direct and indirect jobs over the lifetime of these projects.

QRIDA offers a range of assistance to primary producers, small business and non-profit organisations. To find out what’s available visit Programs and Services.

The Queensland Rural and Industry Development Authority (QRIDA) administer the RED Grant scheme on behalf of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

Last updated
22 December 2020