Food Heroes goes bananas

Food Heroes forum to focus on bananas

Horticulture
BROAD THINKER: Second-generation banana farmer Rob Watkins at the site of his new factory at Walkamin where unsaleable bananas are turned into resistance starch products.

BROAD THINKER: Second-generation banana farmer Rob Watkins at the site of his new factory at Walkamin where unsaleable bananas are turned into resistance starch products.

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Bananas will be the focus of the upcoming Food Heroes forum in Tully.

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BANANAS will be the talk of Tully on August 17, when the final instalment of Fairfax Media’s Food Heroes series kicks off.

The Food Heroes concept has seen seven other forums held at farms across the state covering a wide range of industries including horticulture, grains, beef and dairy. The forums aim to connect our true ‘Food Heroes’ – our farmers – to their consumers.

Hosting in Tully will be Australia’s largest banana growers – the Mackay family – who’ll hold the day in their extensive packing shed. 

Among the speakers will be innovative banana farmer Rob Watkins, who is tapping into the surging demand for gluten free products by producing a banana flour.

Rob and wife Krista Watkins opened their state-of-the-art $3.8 million factory at Walkamin on the Atherton Tablelands, and launched Natural Evolution Foods in 2015. The factory, the world’s first and only pharmaceutical grade banana flour factory, can take green bananas and turn them into powder in 25 minutes as opposed to a 24-hour drying process.

It processes about 10 tonnes of bananas weekly to produce two tonnes of powder, with capacity to ramp up to four tonnes.

Natural Evolution Foods proved to be quite a hit both domestically and internationally with their signature product, Green Banana Flour, which is made from Australian grown and owned bananas.

Mr Watkins said designing and building the factory was challenging.

“We had impossible mountains to climb because its a hard product to handle,” Mr Watkins said last year.

“The factory is special because it allows us to bring value to people. We are processing an unsaleable product that is deemed waste and turning it into a beneficial product.”

However it’s not all about flour – they also produce an Ultimate Smoothie range and other products.

The Watkins buy unsaleable fruit from local farmers and have last year started processing organic bananas they grew on eight acres of “poor country” beside the factory, with incredible results.

Also speaking at the event will be Mackay Farms’ Cameron Mackay and Australian Banana Growers Council chairman Stephen Lowe, Tully.

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