Capturing the Prize: the A$200 billion opportunity for Australia's food and agribusiness sector/ Enhanced Production and Value Addition / Food loss and waste
Opportunities to reduce food loss and waste throughout the supply chain (primary producers, manufacturers and consumers), improve the sustainability of production and supply and develop viable value-added end products from what is currently wasted.
Natural Evolution, run by second-generation banana farmers, produce a range of food, health, and beauty products from banana waste.
It is the world’s first and only certified producer of green banana flour – a gluten-free and dairy-free alternative to traditional wheat flours, and green banana resistant starch. The starch contains the richest form of prebiotic resistant starch properties globally, and brings various health benefits.
With cyclones wiping out its banana crop overnight, and recognising the vast banana waste problem in North Queensland – around 2.5 million bananas are wasted per week due to oversupply or crops not matching supermarket standards – they knew its business and industry needed to innovate.
It was the first company to produce banana flour in Australia. Its products are now sold in over 50 countries worldwide. With revenue in the millions, employment doubling annually, and opening up a new market for other banana growers now selling direct to Natural Evolution, banana waste has become a true value-add.
After accidentally driving over a hand of green bananas and noticing the puff of flour-like powder, ideas first started to form. The family began making green banana flour by hand and selling it in the farm shop, but as demand grew, they recognised the opportunity to scale.
After accessing a FIAL grant, the business took Cavendish and Lady Finger banana samples to a testing lab. This revealed the incredible health benefits of the ‘resistant starch’ found in the Lady Finger bananas and led to further product ideas. Over the years, Natural Evolution has commissioned research from many universities to help inform how to proceed.
A grant from Commercialisation Australia enabled them to build the world’s first pharmaceutical-grade banana flour facility, and an additional grant from FIAL to help deliver its design for a new drying technology.
Natural Evolution no longer grows bananas on its own farm, but buy from other farms across the state – over one million metric tonnes in the last calendar year. It is now selling its drying processing technology to farms around Australia to help them create more products from their own fruit or vegetable waste.
This case study is from FIAL's 2022 edition of Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2022