IT'S been 11 years since US giant Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) moved beetroot production from its Golden Circle cannery in Brisbane to New Zealand, creating a wave of uncertainty among growers in the state's salad bowl.
However, the Lockyer Valley's beetroot industry could be revitalised if a new vegetable processing facility gets off the ground this year.
Lockyer Valley Beetroot Company recently signed a lease on buildings and 10ha of farmland at Crowley Vale off the Warrego Highway, with one of its proponents even floating the idea of a Big Beetroot to join the Big Orange.
The company is a sister company to Lockyer Valley Foods, which is planning a cannery at nearby Withcott, and aims to process thousands of tonnes of beetroot into powder form for the human and animal markets.
Lockyer Valley Foods and Lockyer Valley Beetroot Company spokesperson Colin Dorber said the facility could be open by the end of the year.
"We're going to process collectively from the farmers in the region 7000 tonnes of beetroot into powder form for the horse industry, the greyhound industry and human consumption and we expect that project to be operational by November," Mr Dorber said.
"We're just getting all the flood damage sorted, getting the paddocks prepared and we're finalising our equipment purchase."
The equipment will cost $2 million and will either be funded by a bank loan or investor.
And in true Australian style, Mr Dorber said he wanted the site to stand out with its own big icon.
"We're actually going to have a big billboard there and I've decided to follow the lead of the Big Banana, the Big Pineapple and the 'big everybody else', and we're going to have a Big Beetroot."
CLOSER to Toowoomba, Lockyer Valley Foods' proposed cannery for Withcott is also one step closer to becoming a reality, with the development application set to be formally lodged with Lockyer Valley Regional Council on Friday.
After 13 years of planning, Mr Dorber said he was happy with the timing.
"We started [the DA] on the first of October last year, so it's quite appropriate to say that the birth of the DA is now consummated by its delivery this coming Friday - exactly nine months to it," he said.
Mr Dorber said they had pre-lodgement meetings with council and the Queensland government and addressed all 600 issues identified, and he anticipated a minimum of three months for this approval to be finalised.
"As soon as that DA approval is through, we will move 300,000 tonnes of soil on site and spread it and we're going to build into that hill," he said.
"That means we'll no longer be raising funds from mum and dads. From this coming Friday, it's serious stuff.
"We're now saying to Australian investors all over the country - this is happening, here's the land, here's the DA, here's our business case, come to the table."
Lockyer Valley Foods needs to raise $80 million between Australian investors and its co-operative, which was approved by the state government in January.
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