KALFRESH will soon use x-ray technology to detect insect damage and defects in sweet corn, supporting up to 42 regional jobs and increasing business revenue.
Agricultural Industry Development Minister Mark Furner said the Scenic Rim vegetable company was one of 14 businesses in Queensland to receive a Rural Economic Development Grant of up to $250,000 to fund the expansion of their business.
Kalfresh will introduce an automated non-destructive sweet corn line, with innovative x-ray functionality. The processing line will increase sweet corn plantings by 200ha a year and support new jobs.
The project will include a fully automated cob inspection, cutting and packing processes.
"We know the COVID-19 pandemic has made it tough for a lot of businesses and communities, so these additional jobs will be most welcome," said Mr Furner.
The project will help support up to seven jobs plus another 35 indirect positions, including agronomists, farm managers, machine operators, technicians, managers and quality assurance and sales staff.
Kalfresh CEO Richard Gorman said the new infrastructure would grow and cut sweet corn to meet the consumer trend for ready-to-eat, pre-cut vegetables, while also reducing food waste by using x-ray technology to analyse the corn and utilise more of the crop.
"Market research and data tells us that one of the biggest growth areas in fresh produce is the ready-to-eat, prepared salad and vegetable sector," Mr Gorman said.
Mr Gorman said the key to succeeding was to have an efficient paddock to packet model and being able to utilise most of the crop. The investment in sweet corn processing technology would enable Kalfresh to do this.
"The flow-on benefits are not only in the Scenic Rim region. Kalfresh and its growing partners are based in geographically diverse regions, including the Southern Downs and Bowen, to enable 12-month supply of sweet corn," he said.
- The Rural Economic Development Grants program offers emerging projects up to $250,000 in co-contributions to build industry and grow employment opportunities across the agricultural sector. The $10 million grants program provides for three funding rounds over a three-year period ending 2021.