Cherry research into full product utilisation

The Southern Farmer
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CHERRIES: Cousins (from left) Michael and Simon Rouget own and operate Koala Cherries, a third generation cherry growing, packing and marketing business in Yarck. PHOTO: Michelle Beatty
By Sam Rouget

KOALA Cherries are looking at ways to capitalise on product wastage after the State Government provided $10,000 to invest in an early stage feasibility study.

Currently, cherry wastage is used as cattle feed – but investigations will begin into whether it can be turned into a product that will add value to the business.

Simon Rouget, owner and production manager at Koala Cherries, said the funding injection would allow the company to outsource the research.

“The voucher we received will be spent on engaging Beanstalk AgTech to investigate options for waste fruit,” he said.

“Waste fruit is too damaged to sell as fresh fruit but it is still good enough to be put to other uses.

“We’re time poor, so when we saw the opportunity to have someone else do research for us, we jumped at it.

“It’s disappointing to have to throw out fruit when we could be selling it as another product.”

Koala Cherries is based in Yarck, two hours north east of Melbourne.

Today, Simon Rouget – in conjunction with his cousin Michael – operates the third generation cherry growing, packing and marketing business.

Started back in 1944, the family first established an orchard at Wandin, before the family re-located to Yarck in the 1980s seeking a drier, more consistent climate.

So far, Koala Cherries has developed a line of liqueur, ice-cream, chutney, sauce and jam – but with an estimated 300 – 500 tonnes wasted annually, would like to further explore full-utilisation of the cherry product.

“We’re pleased to be looking for other options – it’d feel even better if we can go forward with some alternatives that reduce our waste,” Simon said.

“I’m delighted to see such a diverse mix of businesses awarded vouchers in the first round of the program,” Will Dalton, from Agriculture Victoria, said.

“The vouchers were valued between $5000 and $50,000 and in many ways the list of successful applicants read like a tasting plate of food innovation; everything from native ingredients to milk, to cherries and lamb.

“It’s exciting to see local businesses take up the opportunity to innovate and get the support they need to take new products to market and in doing so, create more jobs across regional Victoria.”

Grants under round two, of up to $50,000, are currently available through the Victorian Government’s Boost Your Business voucher program under the Food Innovation stream, with the first round attracting significant interest.

Mr Dalton said the Food Innovation Vouchers program prioritised businesses in the food supply chain and made up to $10,000 available for early stage feasibility and testing, and up to $50,000 for process innovation, product development, and research and development.

“The vouchers provide funding for businesses to develop new products, improve business processes and systems, identify new export markets, undertake research and development, and gain certification,” he said.

“In round two, we’re also offering a new Food Innovation Voucher aimed at helping businesses prepare for and attract investment.”

Boost Your Business vouchers are also available in Advanced Manufacturing, Asia Gateway and Social Enterprise Capability, Defence, Aerospace and Security, and Victoria-Israel Innovation.

For more information visit business.vic.gov.au/foodinnovation or call 132 215.

More farming news and stories can be read in the August, 2018 print edition of The Southern Farmer or click here to access digital editions.
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