Queenslander Krista Watkins insists innovation at the farm gate is key to reducing food waste. The Walkamin local was named the 2018 Queensland AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award Winner and National Finalist for her project which will look at uncovering by-products for sweet potatoes, an industry which wastes on average 50 tonnes per acre.

“As a primary producer, it’s absolutely heartbreaking that so much of your crop that you’ve put a lot of love, care and money into is simply thrown away because there isn’t a market for it, it’s oversupplied or it doesn’t look how consumers think it should look,” said Watkins. She has already started research into developing by-products for the four most common varieties grown in Australia. “You can make an incredible sweet potato gluten free flour, I’ve tried it and it’s a really fine flour product. This is just one example of creating a full-circle income stream. Who knows what else I will uncover? Perhaps next year people will be applying a sweet potato mask to their face each evening because of some unknown skin benefit.”

It is estimated that food waste at the farm gate represents 10 per cent of gross food production, valued at $4 billion. “It’s not our fault that we waste so much of our produce. Weather, market supply and demand as well as consumer preference all play into these figures. However, we can find alternative income streams through by-products. Just because you grow fresh produce doesn’t mean you have to sell fresh produce.”

Krista’s own business, Natural Evolution, takes fresh bananas grown on her plantation and turns the fruit into banana flour. “Our crops were hit by two cyclones within a short time period. I knew we had to do something different because we were wasting so much. I couldn’t change mother nature but I could change the way we worked with our produce,” she said “It’s a new way of doing business, it’s breaking stereotypes and it’s conditioning growers to think of alternatives.”

Krista looks forward to using the AgriFuture Rural Women’s Award as a platform to showcase what she is doing to combat food waste and encourages rural women to consider registering for the 2019 AgriFutures Rural Women’s Award, with registrations now open.  The AgriFuture Rural Women’s Award National Winner and Runner up will be announced Monday, 15 October 2018.

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