Far North Queensland produce company, Daintree Fresh is hoping to build recognition and sales of its new pumpkin variety.
Orange Glow is the first Australian bred and Australian grown variety to hit the market in 20 years, following an extensive selection and natural breeding process, to develop its specialised attributes. Farm Manager Shaun Jackson says it will be provided in a similar way to a pink lady apple, where he will be offering the variety as well as agronomy and expertise to growers, to ensure consistent internal qualities and size.
He added that it is very important to market the entire crop, and he is looking closely at processing opportunities, due to its ability to be processed without peeling and without taking out the seed.
"We have now hit the marketplace with it, and it's a really exciting time" Farm Manager Shaun Jackson said. "I'm growing to order; it has amazing colour inside and has a small cavity, and almost no skin. It’s lower GI than sweetpotato, and high in antioxidants. We are promoting it on Instagram, and we have even created its own website. We are having a fantastic run with it at the moment, although the pumpkin market is pretty flat, due to oversupply and low prices. I have done the entire marketing aspect; we have posters, had in-store demonstrations, we have point of sale products such as recipes and we are working closely with shops. It is important that all those involved in the supply chain have a reason to make a new product work, in the case of Orange Glow, it saves money for the stores; because of its size they can cut it in half." instead of cutting quarters (time for staff) and Its internal colour is vivid orange which makes it stand out to the customer.”
Mr Jackson owns the PBR and says he is trying to set it a reasonable price so that the grower and retailer make money while keeping the price low enough for the public - but most importantly sticking to a steady price throughout the season. He says that he has plans to export the variety to Japan in the future.
Further research is also being conducted through the Queensland Government to discover its full health benefits; pulling the product apart on a cellular level to see if we can find natural products such as food colouring and Beta Carotene supplements.
Mr Jackson has already experienced success in introducing pumpkin varieties, helping launch Kent to Australia, during his background travelling internationally while working for a seed company.
"Along with a few other produce supply companies, we did some interesting stuff, when it was only the Queensland Blue and Brian's Gray (varieties)," he said. "We did pumpkin soup recipes and shipped them all over the country. Everyone said at the time that they didn't like (the Kent) as it was too green and too soft. But, like it always happens with good products, demand built and built and it became the major pumpkin. I have been involved in the very beginning of seedless watermelon, Broccolini, Kent, different chillies and many others. In every single case, the market was very reluctant to take them on and exactly as with Orange Glow the restaurants were the ones to see the advantages, the public would see them when out and ask their various retailers, who would then start to buy it on the market. Out of all of those products this one ticks most boxes, it is cheap per meal easy to prepare the right size, and it has been used for soup, pickles, chips, salads, garnish, burgers bread rolls and pies for dessert, how many other healthy vegetables have such a diverse eating opportunity are healthy and actually taste good.”
He added that achieving success with new varieties is not always easy due to the risk involved. Mr Jackson says there is so many moving parts to the industry, requiring a lot of effort from growers and producers, with constant setbacks and disappointment due to things like the weather. He is worried that the next generation may run out of innovators to keep the fruit and vegetable industry growing.
Mr Jackson admits his philosophy is to try to put different products in, in a small way, and then work out what the value, return and cost - rather than the other way around.
"That is in contrast to some of my fellow growers," he said. "We work out if we have got an edge on quality, if we understand what it is, if we can fit it into our program. Then I send some product out to the marketplace and get a response. I try to find people who are prepared to pay me, at least at the top end of the floating market for a good quality product. I then work on orders and increase my production relative to orders. That's Unlike some competitors who work out how much they are going to plant and potentially affect the markets."
Daintree Fresh has also recently begun growing Panama passionfruit, which Mr Jackson says has a unique blend of sweetness and tang, with a pink internal colour.
"We have had an amazing run on passionfruit," Mr Jackson said. "We have really had a fantastic response from the marketplace on our quality. We have got them full and with amazing brix. I went to Hong Kong to attend Asia Fruit Logistica and was able to work out some good shelf-life additions to our program. We also have an amazing yield."
Even though Daintree Fresh has had a strong response to the quality of its trial crop, Mr Jackson admits he is hesitating how he moves forward with his passionfruit production, due to the market situation.
"We have had an amazing run with them, but the one issue with passionfruit is that we are led to understand that a few growers have planted a large number of trees, and it is such an expensive crop to capitalise," he said. "By the time you trellis them, prune them and put the posts and other things in, then find out someone has oversupplied the market and the prices are low, you can lose a lot of money."
The company is also growing several varieties of papaya, which Mr Jackson says is friendly on the environment, requiring no insecticide and a soft fungicide.
"That's something that I'm really against is the chemical system for growing fruit," he explained. "So, we have got a really good response. People are saying we have a really good flavour and that they eat really well. I'm gradually, as long as people are prepared to pay the appropriate amount of money, to provide a decent return on investment, I will gradually increase that as demand increases and we get our brand going."
The farm is based in Far North Queensland, at Lakeland, which has elevation and is away from the coast. The crop gets milder winters and summers. Mr Jackson says, by chance, he discovered Ducasse bananas growing on the property and says they have an important place in the market.
"That is supposed to be a fairly small market," Mr Jackson said. "Everyone is after huge fruit, and by growing larger sizes, you affect the ripe shelf-life and flavour. We have figured out how to grow these Ducasse, and they are some of the best eating bananas I have ever had. So, we are gradually increasing what we are doing and marketing them, and making noise about them. I really see them as a top-quality banana, because they are a small, firm and tasty banana - perfect, for example, for children’s lunchboxes. Gradually, people will grow to see how tasty they are.”