Farm waste is a common topic of conversation. The agriculture sector attracts its fair share of negativity, perhaps due to the visibility of waste. Understandably, roadside rotting melons are not a pretty sight, but the reality is they’re left behind for any number of reasons: low prices and oversupply, uneven pollination, varietal issues or not meeting strict consumer expectations set by the supermarkets. 

On-farm waste falls into two main categories: organic waste and inorganic waste, such as the lines of plastic film that crops are planted into, cardboard and chemical bins. Interestingly, plastic used in the agriculture sector accounts for about five per cent of overall plastics nationally, yet there is substantial pressure on growers to farm more sustainably. 

Local growers are rising to the challenge by value adding, recycling and utilising environmentally-sustainable methods to contribute to a circular economy. 

For example, in 2019 Simpson Farms became the first in the world to use biodegradable tray liners for their avocados and mangoes, reducing their inorganic waste both in the packing shed and throughout the supply chain. The change is estimated to have replaced 1.8 million plastic liners annually.

The Austchilli Group has been farming in the Bundaberg Region for 50 years, and for half of that they’ve been value-adding and manufacturing foods. They are committed to sustainable farming right across their business; from solar power to recycling 100 per cent of their water. They’ve reduced plastics and have a zero-food-waste philosophy. As Australia’s largest chilli grower, their agronomy team uses so-called “old time” principles combined with modern science and technology to create healthy soil, which in turn delivers nutrient-packed fruit. 

And then there are the likes of Order of Australia Medal recipients, Wendy and Trevor Cross from Cross Family Farms, who have donated more than $5.5million worth of produce over the past eight years to Meals on Wheels, Foodbank Queensland and Angels Community Group to help feed those in need. 

Bundaberg’s fruit, vegetable, herb and nut farmers provide 25 percent of Queensland’s fresh produce. BFVG is proud to represent an industry that is contributing to sustainable land management and protecting our waterways. Local industry champions are showing others how waste can be repurposed or value-added to improve their businesses, society and the environment.

Bree Grima is the Managing Director of Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers.