COLES will spend $50 million on nurturing farm businesses, the company has announced today.
The Nurture Fund will help small Australian food and grocery producers, farmers and manufacturers to innovate and grow their business, with $50 million allocated over five years in grants and interest-free loans to fund the development of new market-leading products, technologies and processes.
The Fund will be open to businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees.
Horticultural body Ausveg welcomed the announcement today as a sign of confidence in the industry.
“The fact that Coles, one of the biggest retailers in the country, is supporting local business innovation and development through such a substantial fund sends a strong message that it has confidence in the industry’s long-term viability and prosperity,” Ausveg deputy CEO Andrew White said.
The National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) said if implemented well, the new fund could be a win-win for all participants across the food supply chain.
“Strong, private investment in the farm sector offers many potential benefits, including better infrastructure, uptake of new technology and improved protection for seasonally-affected businesses from income volatility,” NFF CEO Simon Talbot said.
“For example, a grower might invest in hydroponics at height, lifting worker productivity and reducing water-use. Immediately, benefits can flow from reduced costs, and the ability for farmers to produce more, with less, for longer.”
Making the announcement at a vegetable farm in Victoria’s Werribee this morning, Coles managing director John Durkan said the fund would help producers take the next step in improving productivity and innovation.
“Through investing in productivity driving activities we can not only provide better value to customers but also help set up small businesses to develop the products and platforms to expand their operations and, in some cases, export into global markets,” Mr Durkan said.
“Smart, energetic and agile small businesses can often be a launch pad for great product innovation and powerful new ideas on better ways of working.
“Coles wants to hear exciting and ambitious plans from smaller entrepreneurs about how they can deliver new and better product to customers, or about ideas they have for innovative business systems that will improve how they get product to market. Modest financial support can make the difference in getting great ideas up and running.”
The Coles Nurture Fund further builds on the Coles Supplier Charter, the company said in a statement.
Small business entrepreneurs can submit requests for funds, along with their business plan, for review by the Coles Nurture Fund. Application forms for the Coles Nurture Fund are available at www.coles.com.au/nurturefund and applications should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org – first round applications close on Friday 12 June 2015.