A new range of Australian-grown vegetable powders is helping farmers get more out of their crop by finding a home for produce that would otherwise go to waste.
Nutri V is launching the powders in four flavours - broccoli, cauliflower, pumpkin and mixed veg - in the fresh vegetable section of Coles stores in Victoria this week.
The project was launched by produce company Fresh Select and the CSIRO in 2020, with a focus on curbing food waste, but the powders are also being touted as an easy way for Australians to reach the recommended five serves of vegetables a day.
Fresh Select CEO and Nutri V executive chairman John Said said it solves multiple problems in one.
"There's always roughly 15 to 20 per cent that we don't harvest because it's out of specification or it's damaged or it doesn't make retail grade," Mr Said said.
"That amount of product, especially across cauliflower, broccoli and pumpkin, amounts to a lot of money, and it's a lot of money that you're leaving out on the farm.
"[Nutri V] is the first of its kind simply because we grow the vegetables ourselves to be sold to the markets, and then we take that vegetable onsite - the one that we don't sell or that doesn't meet specification - and we fully process onsite, and distribute it onsite as well.
"It's a complete solution, literally from the seed right through to the customer."
The shelf-stable powders are produced through a number of pre-treatment and drying processes, but the final product is still 100pc vegetable.
Coming in at 70g, a packet of Nutri V's broccoli or cauliflower powder contains around 750g of the equivalent vegetable heads.
Just like other supplements, the powders can be added to smoothies, muffins, pasta sauces and even ice-cream.
Luckily for fussy eaters, the taste is easily camouflaged, according to Mr Said, but just as nutritious as the fresh counterpart.
"In the case of fibre, it's actually higher," Mr Said said.
"What you're doing is you're actually amplifying it, because you're taking the water out of it and you're concentrating it. The vegetable is made up of a lot of fibre, so the fibre concentration is quite high.
"All the analysis and all the testing that we've done, the powders run at around a 98pc equal efficacy. In other words, it's 98pc of the fresh offer equivalent."
For farmers, vegetable powders could be an opportunity to improve both financial and environmental sustainability.
Mr Said said the entire supply chain has been under stress, but maximising returns would help growers weather the storm.
"The increases in costs are out of control. We've had significant wage rises, we've had energy costs that go up," Mr Said said.
"You really can't offset that, because they're big numbers, but what you can do is that if your yields are better, it helps become more viable.
"What it effectively does for us is give us a better return on our crop utilisation. When we start thinking about ten plants in the ground and you go to leave two or three behind, and those two or three you're actually getting paid for them now, it just makes the whole mathematics of farming a lot better."
Since its inception, Nutri V has saved more than 200 tonnes of produce from landfill, or more than a million serves of vegetables.
And with sales and demand increasing, the company is now in a position to start using waste from growers beyond Fresh Select.
Plans to branch out will only increase the number of farmers able to make the most of their yields - a beetroot powder is likely next on the cards, but trials with mushrooms have also been promising.