Turning waste into an income stream

Whitsundays region project turns surplus tomatoes and capsicums into high value powders

In Queensland’s Whitsundays region, the Bowen Gumlu Growers Association represents farmers who produce up to 40 percent of Australia’s yearly tomato and capsicum crops. Every year, Australia produces nearly half a million tons of tomatoes and 76,000 tons of capsicums. Unfortunately, between 30-40 percent of production is lost or wasted. For the growers in the Bowen Gumlu region, that’s around 173,000 tons of surplus produce going to waste.

In 2020, the growers association partnered with Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF), Fight Food Waste Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), and Whitsunday Regional Council to undertake a three-part project investigating solutions.

It aims to add value to produce worth $300 million, including the 150,000 tons of tomato and 23,000 tons of capsicum waste generated in the Bowen and Gumlu region. Fight Food Waste CRC CEO Dr. Steven Lapidge says there are often high levels of waste in horticulture that must be addressed if growers are to gain maximum value from what they produce while also minimizing food waste.

According to foodanddrinkbusiness.com.au, the valuable nutrients and resources discarded as food waste, particularly fruit and vegetable waste, can be recovered and repurposed. These new products can be used in processed foods, nutraceuticals, and complementary health care.

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