Case Study D1: OzBerries project
The OzBerries project is an example of regional producers working together to improve quality and reduce costs, with the help of the Sustainable Regions Programme. The project received funding of $223,465 under the programme.
OzBerries was established when four independent blueberry growers in the Woolgoolga region of New South Wales realised that their fragmented marketing efforts were not efficient, and decided to form a marketing cooperative.
As numbers grew, the group realised that small growers were overcapitalising by investing in their own expensive processing and packing equipment. This duplication also meant that packers in different locations were producing fruit of inconsistent quality.
OzBerries produced a business plan for a 'long line' packing plant that would achieve a consistent standard of product while saving small growers the expense of having their own equipment and packers. The group successfully applied for funding to erect a warehouse that contains a processing and packing line, and a cool room, for blueberries.
The standard of fruit is now consistently high, allowing local growers to sell their product through major chains. The OzBerries group has expanded to 35 growers, and the project has provided significant economic and employment benefits for the region.
The Woolgoolga area now produces 80% of Australian blueberries, and production is expected to more than double over the next three years, as existing plantings reach maturity and new growers are attracted to the industry.