07/11/2017 - 11:40

Franceschi prepares for ‘avolanche’

07/11/2017 - 11:40

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Jennifer Franceschi has invested millions preparing for a surge of new avocado production entering the market.

Franceschi prepares for ‘avolanche’
Jennifer Franceschi accepts her Telstra Western Australian Businesswoman of the Year award.

Jennifer Franceschi has invested millions preparing for a surge of new avocado production entering the market.

Ms Franceschi, last week named Telstra Western Australian Businesswoman of the Year, has been growing avocados since she started out on the family farm in 1974, more recently co-founding the Fresh Produce Alliance.

She came out ahead of four category winners at the annual businesswoman of the year awards.

Among them was Jahna Cedar, the 2017 40under40 First Amongst Equals, who won the social enterprise award for her work as executive officer of Gumala Aboriginal Corporation.

Anh Nguyen, the principal of Dr Anh Plastic Surgeon Medispa & Wellness Clinic, won an award for entrepreneurship, while Western Australian Police Service assistant commissioner Michelle Fyfe won the public service and academia award.

Fitness business Bolly Active founder, Maitri Patel, won the young businesswoman’s award.

Ms Franceschi’s Fresh Produce Alliance spent more than $5 million on an avocado processing facility in Manjimup, which opened its doors last year.

That plant features individual quick-freeze and high-pressure processing technology, which can be used in the production of baby food and smoothies.

“In 2009, we started (Avocado Export Company) with a grower packer in Queensland … to create a little bit of stability in the local market,” Ms Franceschi said, while acknowledging increasing market pressure from new suppliers.

“The avocado industry has become quite successful, a lot of people have diversified into avocados.

“(Recently) there have been many, many, many trees that have gone into the ground, in this region and around Australia.

“We’re aware of what’s confronting us. I’m one of those who like to think five, 10, 15 years ahead.

“What I call the ‘avolanche’ is coming.”

That expected growth in production led Fresh Produce to invest in its new facility – to increase volumes and add a focus on new value added product lines.

One example is its Born Pure baby food range, which is made using high-pressure processing technology that can package the food without heat.

High-pressure processing is relatively new to Australia, Ms Franceschi told Business News.

She said the technology was disruptive in the baby food industry, predicting that all baby food in the US would be produced using the method within five years.

Additionally, the Born Pure range is food suitable for people in aged care facilities and for cancer patients, Ms Franceschi said.

Part of the impetus for the new line was that about 30 per cent of horticultural produce never left the farm gate and ended up wasted, she said.

The alliance was hoping to target that excess and therefore provide additional income opportunities for growers, effectively taking something from which farmers received no income and adding value.

Further moves have been into avocado chocolate mousse, smoothies and juices, while the business had a big win recently when Woolworths agreed to stock the brand.

Export markets in Asia, including Singapore and Japan, have also been targeted.

Ms Franceschi plans to use publicity from her award to advocate for regional development and agribusiness, in addition to her role on the board of the South West Development Commission, to which she was recently appointed.

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