In 2017, Black River Produce growers Jon and Anthony Caleo first planted a trial asparagus crop over two hectares on their watermelon and pumpkin farm at Sellheim. They branched out after cucumber green mottle mosaic virus was detected on their 161 ha property, Cottrell Farms, in April 2015 and re-emerged in January 2017.
This made the Caleos set out for alternative crops that were not susceptible to the disease and settled on asparagus.
According to Anthony Caleo, they had started harvesting their second crop this year and it was showing a better return. They have so far harvested two tonnes, with the bulk of the vegetables going to Coles in North Queensland, as well as some smaller greengrocers.
Queenslandcountrylife.com.au reports that the climate allows the family to produce asparagus when it is normally out of season, replacing some of the $45 million import market. Supermarket giant Coles, through their Nurture Fund, provided the grant which will allow the Caleos to plant more asparagus and install equipment to process the produce on farm.
The entrepreneurial farmers have been awarded a $300,000 grant to continue the trial.