Herbs happy in a new home
TWO years after it purchased the site at Caniaba, herb-grower Freshzest last week officially opened its $4 million glasshouse, with Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell cutting the ribbon.
When the Melbourne-based grower decided to establish a herb farm to supply Woolworths in NSW and Queensland, it scoured for a suitable location from Bundaberg to Port Macquarie.
Farm manager Suzi Davison said after an extensive search the company settled on Caniaba because of its plentiful supply of water and sunlight, and pool of potential employees and access to transport.
“We have a team of about 34, including managers, horticulturalists, administrators, growers and packers, a lot of whom bring unique skills to the growing operation,” she said.
Ms Davison said the 16,300 square metre glasshouse – bigger than a football field – represented a significant investment by the company in the region.
“When considering the grand scale of the glasshouse, it’s hard to believe the future plans for the property include expansion of the glasshouse to almost double its current size and the inclusion of an outdoor cropping area for more hardy varieties,” she said.
The company was founded in Melbourne in the late 1970s and soon became the biggest herb grower in the country.
The Lismore farm will grow 15 varieties under the Herbzest brand, including green and Thai basil, coriander, watercress, rosemary and kaffir lime.
The company has supplied Woolworths since 1989.
“Freshzest uses every means available 365 days a year to ensure its product range is on retailers’ shelves in less than 48 hours after picking to ensure standards, freshness, maximum shelf life and piquancy,” Ms Davison said.
Set on an 18 hectare block, the glasshouse comprises 8700 sheets of glass weighing around 12 tons, 23,000 fasteners including bolts, screws and rivets, and 75 tons of steel framing.
Inside there are 566 raised growing benches.
Although the greenhouse was only officially opened last week, the first crop was planted in July and harvested in September last year.