Paving the way for a regional processing hub

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JESSIE DAVIES6 Oct 2016, 3 p.m The Land Fairfax Media

Botanical Innovations managing director Kerry Ferguson, Orange. The business formulates its own extracts, oils, vinegars and bio-pesticides. It also offers research and development services.

JUST ten minutes drive from the centre of Orange, in Central West NSW, you will find a shed full of bubbling vats, pools and pipes.

The vessels are transforming and refining waste from the region’s agriculture sector. They contain cherry pips, imperfect apples and grape skins and seeds.

Inside is Kerry Ferguson, the managing director of Botanical Innovations – a business she launched in 2014 to squeeze value out of the Central West’s agricultural waste streams.

With the help of Southern Cross University Ms Ferguson has developed processing techniques to produce cherry seed oil; apple cider vinegar; red and white grape seed oil and extracts. She has also developed bio-pesticides for use in high value horticulture crops and engaged in a joint venture with a group of farmers from Bourke to produce Buddha oil.

The bulk of her products are ready for commercialisation and will soon hit high-end food stores in India and China.

Botanical Innovations was recently showcased by Regional Development Australia Central West as a successful value-adding business ripe for replication.

RDA’s report, titled ‘Value Adding to Agriculture in Central West NSW’, said there was ample value yet to be realised from the abundance of grapes, apples, olives and other stone fruits produced in significant quantities in the Central West.

The report said a whopping 65pc of the agricultural commodities produced in the region are freighted out without any value-adding and businesses like Ms Ferguson’s could be modeled to create a bio-tech and high-tech food processing hub.

A regional hub would create jobs, further the region’s branding and grow the Central West economy.
“In Orange we’re positioned perfectly in terms of our suppliers and we’re on a major road network to get our products to port,” Ms Ferguson said.

She said local farmers needed more options for second-grade produce and were only too happy to part with their waste.

“Wineries are looking to get rid of grape mark for free. For them it’s a nuisance but for me it’s something I can add value to make two products and potentially a third.”

The report pointed to opportunities for investment in packaging infrastructure.

“A lot of people like myself as well as much larger players are already looking for bottling and packaging solutions,” she said.

The report said the new availability of flights from Canberra to Singapore was a potential game changer for agricultural exports from the Central West. Flights now connect exporters to 11 Chinese cities.photo

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