A TRIO of WA quinoa growers will reach consumers across the country after forging a deal with supermarket giant Coles.
The Three Farmers Quinoa collaboration of Ashley Wiese, Garren Knell and Megan Gooding hit the big time this month as they started supplying 720 Australian stores.
The trio are serving their own branded product plus supplying Coles brand white quinoa.
They have committed about 30 tonne a month to Coles after 130t was initially injected to fill the supply chain.
Coles kickstarted Three Farmers' efforts last year with $500,000 from its Nurture Fund, that helped set up Australia's first-ever quinoa processing plant on Mr Wiese's Highbury property.
"Coles has been really supportive of our story," Mr Wiese said.
"It's massive for us to be in 720 stores and we can't thank Coles enough for the opportunity.
"To be able to go to our local Coles - or any Coles in Australia - and see our product on the shelves is a dream come true.
"The grant meant we were able to build the processing plant with a guaranteed market.
"By being able to process our own quinoa at Narrogin, we no longer need to send quinoa overseas for processing, which reduces food miles for our customers."
The Wiese family, with the Knells and Goodings, have been growing quinoa for about seven years.
Mr Wiese said their focus had been on developing varieties to suit the climate.
"We're really affected by the season, last year we had a really hot September when the plants were flowering," he said.
"It's a really drought-tolerant crop but when it is flowering it really is susceptible to heat so 35 degrees gets to it.
"We had that in September, six weeks earlier than we thought we would have it."
Mr Wiese said this kind of weather event could reduce a third of the crop yield during a critical stage of plant development.
To ensure supply Three Farmers are working with 15 growers from Kojonup to Kununurra to produce the grain.
The Highbury plant then processes it before it is shipped to Melbourne to be packed by Annex Foods.
Mr Wiese said they had secured more growers in the Ord region, which would help spread the seasonal risk.
The traditional growing area in the highlands of Bolivia boasts long summer days of similar conditions to WA's winter.
Mr Wiese said this meant they were developing a product in similar conditions but in shorter days, a factor which the quinoa isn't typically suited to.
Through trial and error he said they were getting closer to the right approach, with quinoa overall well-suited to WA.
Once they have settled into the Coles supply chain, Mr Wiese said the development of more quinoa products such as breakfast cereals was on the cards.
Three Farmers partnered with Perth-based distillery Whipper Snapper to produce Quinoa Whiskey, which will be made commercially.
The new processing plant at Narrogin will supply Coles with more than 800,000 packets of white quinoa each year and look to produce locally-grown red and black quinoa in the future.
Coles managing director John Durkan welcomed the opportunity to replace South American white quinoa with WA-grown white quinoa.
"Our customers want to buy locally-grown products so we are pleased to be the first major supermarket to offer white quinoa which is grown, processed and packed in Australia," Mr Durkan said.
"We are always looking for new and innovative ways to meet our customers' needs.
"To be able to replace imported white quinoa with a locally-grown and processed product is a great outcome and it would be fantastic if we could one day replace all our imported quinoa with local products.
"This is a perfect example of why we started the Coles Nurture Fund and we are pleased to work with this innovative group of WA farmers to eliminate imports of white quinoa and provide Australian-grown quinoa throughout the country."
Three Farmers is also considering its international prospects and plans to use its WA story to help sell the product on the world stage, having recently appeared at a Singapore trade show.
"We were going to export bulk into Asia, but unless you're going to use your Australian origin story, you're competing on a world market. You need to set yourself apart," he said.
This is why they have changed their plans for Asia to selling straight to the consumer.
"The world market is extremely volatile, Coles is really supporting us and believing in our product and we're giving them our story so it's a good partnership," he said,.
"We are just three farmers and all of a sudden we've become processors and marketers."