Wide open agriculture

Many Australians are seeking quality food that aligns to their values on fairness to farmer and sustainability. Meanwhile, farmers who’ve embraced regenerative, lower carbon-emitting practices want to reach these customers and share their journey. Enter Wide Open Agriculture, a listed Western Australian start-up that spotted a golden opportunity to connect these two groups efficiently and at scale.

Wide Open’s Dirty Clean Food distribution division sources grass-fed beef and lamb, pasture-raised chicken and pork, and oats and lupin from farmers committed to regenerative farming practices – practices that focus on soil health, biodiversity and the water cycle. The produce is sold to more than 300 supermarkets and restaurants across WA and other parts of Australia, and online to consumers who want to know that what they’re putting on their plates has been grown or raised in a planet and farmer-friendly way.

Wide Open Agriculture has also launched an oat milk that is the world’s first regeneratively grown, carbon-neutral oat milk using Western Australian oats, plus a lupin-based protein product that’s expected to hit the market later this year.

Mountford berries

Treat yourself to a punnet of Driscoll’s summer berries and there’s every chance they were grown at Mountford, the Mackinnon family farm at Longford, near Launceston. Traditional dry land pastoralists and farmers, the Mackinnons have been on the land since the 1870s but in the berry business for just a fraction of that time.

In 2014, son Roly identified the opportunity to pivot to a reliable, high-value crop and convinced his father Hugh to give it a shot. An initial four hectares of in-ground strawberries has since morphed into a hydroponic facility spanning 21 hectares and growing.

Producing berries is labour intensive: during the six-month harvest season Mountford Berries employs around 140 pickers. It’s also precision horticulture at its finest. The Mackinnons have invested heavily in infrastructure and technology, including remote-controlled digital monitoring and irrigation systems, coldrooms and warehouses to underpin their increasing production area and make their foray into the sector a sweet success story.

Peats soil

Peter Wadewitz grew up working in his father’s wholesale plant nursery and jokes that “we had to make the potting mix before we were allowed to play footy”. He started his own business with a sheet, a shovel and a ute, supplying landscapers around Adelaide with mulch and composting materials.

These days, he employs 100 South Australians across four sites, taking in organic waste and turning it into gardening and agricultural supplies using windrow and in-vessel composting, as well as anaerobic digestion. After nearly half a century working with organic soil products, Peter has earned an Order of Australia for his efforts.

Even after all this time, Peter is still surprised by the discoveries scientists are making about the impact of soil on human health and plant productivity. “Your soil is full of billions of microbes and fungi,” he says. “And if you’re not feeding your soil, you can’t expect it to be converting the chemicals into a form the plants can take up.”

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