Simpson Farms introduce biodegradable avocado trays

The family-owned Bundaberg Region business is the largest avocado producer in Australia and a world leader in innovation.

Between 1.6 and 1.8 million trays containing either 16, 20 or 28 avocados each of Shepard and Hass varieties are grown from Simpson properties in the Goodwood area and leave the farm packed and ready for sale each season.

The new biodegradable tray liners will replace up to 1.8 million plastic tray liners every year.

Ron Simpson and his wife Fay started farming tomatoes and sugarcane in the Bundaberg Region in 1969 before making the switch to avocados — a decision which helped them became the nation’s largest supplier of avocado products.

The business is now primarily managed by Ron’s son-in-laws, all of whom are directors and have a significant role to play, and always looking for innovations to ensure the local company stays at the number one position.

Tony Reading is one of these directors. He said the family always considered what sort of footprint they were leaving on environment.

Tony said converting from plastic fruit tray liners to the recyclable product was something they had wanted to do for some time, and even though it cost more money to implement the initiative, there were reasons why they followed through with it.

“We are aiming to reduce the waste through the business and one way to do that we found was with the packed product, and we’ve done this with Orora in Bundaberg and our tray liners,” Tony said.

“We are taking the waste out of the packed product by replacing the plastic trays with recyclable paper trays and after people purchase the fruit at the shop, the trays can go straight in to the compacter along with the cardboard box and then go to be recycled.”

Tony said he'd seen trays made from paper and cardboard for other fruits and that’s when they approached Orora and made it happen for the avocados.

“It makes life easier for the stores, and it’s better for the environment and less of a footprint we are putting on the earth ,” he said.

“We do a large volume of fruit through here and it’s something we need to be conscious of.

“We do it to take away the waste factor from fresh fruit.”

Tony said the next step was the fruit labels, and the team had been working on making them biodegradable rather than the plastic which is widely used now.

“We are hoping other producers will follow our suit right around Australia,” he said.

“We have always been proud of our product that leaves the shed and now we can be proud of the whole item.”

Simpson Farms environmental management system
But it’s not just the packaging that is environmentally beneficial at Simpson Farms as they create their own compost on site from byproducts.

“After the guacamole is made all the skins and seeds come back to the farm where we turn it in to compost and it goes back in to the trees,” Tony said.

“We use about six to eight thousand tonnes of finished compost each year to feed our trees.

“They are sort of like children and take a lot of looking after, and by looking after them we benefit from the end result.”

Tony said along with the guacamole byproducts they added avocado tree cuttings, which are pruned from trees and chipped, and other locally sourced material such as sugarcane trash to the compost to make it rich in nutrients to ensure the health and growth of the next crop.

There are about 250 employees during the peak avocado season between March and August on Simpson Farms.

This includes 60 full-time staff with over 100 years’ combined experience in horticultural science, engineering, marketing, business management, finance and accounting.

The team is focused on sustaining Simpson Farms through the opportunities and challenges of the next 50 years by investing heavily in research, development and sustainable environmental practices across all areas of operations.

“We are hoping to be the leaders and I think all the others will eventually follow,” Tony said.

“Ron has a lot of knowledge in this industry and that’s why he started here at Goodwood where the climate is right and we have the rich red soils, both of which help us grow perfect avocados.

“Avocados are a wonderful thing to be involved with, and we all really love it.”

Source: Bundaberg Now

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