Boost for Wheatbelt quinoa plant

The West Australian

A Highbury farm will become home to WA's first large-scale quinoa processing plant as the crop goes from strength to strength in the Wheatbelt.

The $1.5 million facility on the Wiese family farm will have capacity to process 5000 tonnes of quinoa a year, an amount equal to total annual demand in Australia.

Supermarket giant Coles has kicked in $500,000 toward construction as part of its effort to support businesses in the food and grocery sector.

Ashley Wiese and business partners Megan Gooding and Garren Kell have pioneered growing of the ancient South American food in WA. Their company, Australian Grown Superfoods, expects to begin processing by the end of the year.

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They considered sending the quinoa to the US for processing, but opted to build a plant on-farm after talking to customers who did not want the product to lose its local identity.

Australia relies almost entirely on South America for supplies of quinoa, which is processed to remove a protective outer layer.

Mr Wiese and his wife Jo have quinoa from recent harvests in silos on their farm and planted another 500ha this year.

The small group of Wheatbelt growers associated with the project did not seek to increase production this year after the harvest jumped from 180t in 2013-14 to about 700t in 2014-15.

"We have about 700t stored and hope for another 500t this harvest," Mr Wiese said.

"That gives us the confidence to start processing.

"Until we had a processing plant we weren't in a position to pay growers.

"The plant will have capacity for about 5000t, but we'll take it step by step and eventually look to push into Asia."

It is the first WA business allocated a grant from the $50 million Coles nature fund.

Coles managing director John Durkan said Mr Wiese was not a Coles supplier but the supermarket chain was keen to have the WA product on its shelves.

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