For­rest’s greens plan served up

Pilbara News - - Pil­bara | News - Rueben Hale

Am­bi­tious plans to grow more than $100 mil­lion of fruit and veg­eta­bles a year on a Pil­bara cat­tle sta­tion have been re­vealed.

En­tre­pre­neur An­drew For­rest’s Min­deroo will ex­pand its in­ter­ests beyond beef to grow mel­ons, potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions for lo­cal and ex­port mar­kets.

The news has added weight to a State Gov­ern­ment re­port last year that found the Pil­bara had the po­ten­tial for a farm­ing in­dus­try up to 100 times more pro­duc­tive than its cur­rent $53 mil­lion an­nual out­put.

On the Ash­bur­ton River near Onslow, Min­deroo cur­rently uses 120ha of cen­tre-pivot ir­ri­ga­tion to grow cat­tle fod­der.

The sta­tion, es­tab­lished in 1878 by the For­rest fam­ily, has one of the best beef cat­tle herds in north­ern WA.

The move to de­velop a “food bowl” at Min­deroo fol­lowed a trial of a man­aged aquifer recharge project in 2010 on the Ash­bur­ton River.

In Fe­bru­ary, Min­deroo Group launched Har­vest Road, an agri­cul­tural dis­tri­bu­tion com­pany in Bei­jing that aims to de­liver a range of WA pro­duce to cus­tomers in China, in­clud­ing milk from the South West. It now has its sights set on adding fruit and veg­eta­bles to Har­vest Road’s beef, fresh milk and honey range.

Min­deroo in­vest­ment head John Hart­man said there was ca­pac­ity to ir­ri­gate up to 1000ha of sta­tion land.

“The in­no­va­tive upside-down weir sys­tem, which is used widely around the world but is not com­mon in Aus­tralia, is a game changer,” he said.

“The sys­tem is be­ing stud­ied by CSIRO to eval­u­ate the op­por­tu­nity to roll out to other rivers in north­ern Aus­tralia.”

Mr Hart­man said the group aimed to take ad­van­tage of Min­deroo’s suit­able soils and favourable win­ter cli­mate for growth.

“The ven­ture is fo­cused on high­value crops with mar­ket dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion; how­ever, we are also aware of the need in se­lec­tion to mit­i­gate against Pil­bara cy­clone risks,” he said.

“The veg­eta­bles will fill a de­mand for high-qual­ity pro­duce go­ing into ex­port mar­kets and also take the place of prod­uct im­ported from the east coast.

“We will have a freight ad­van­tage over East­ern State com­peti­tors.”

Mr Hart­man said the word Min­deroo was Abo­rig­i­nal in ori­gin, mean­ing a “place of per­ma­nent and clean wa­ter”.

He said this fed into the For­rest fam­ily’s strong be­lief in WA’s abil­ity to sup­ply sus­tain­able and eth­i­cally grown pro­duce.

“We are ex­cited by the op­por­tu­ni­ties this project will un­lock to de­velop high-value do­mes­tic and ex­port mar­kets and pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for lo­cal em­ploy­ment,” he said.

“Min­deroo is fo­cused on max­imis­ing its land and wa­ter as­sets and seeks to bring the lead­ing tech­nol­ogy in the world to WA agri­cul­ture.”

An ae­rial view of Min­deroo Sta­tion, which has plans to grow up to 1000ha of fruit and veg­eta­bles, us­ing cen­tre-pivot ir­ri­ga­tion, in ad­di­tion to 120ha pas­ture.

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