A government grant designed to boost agriculture on the Northern Rivers has been welcomed by recipients keen on creating more jobs in rural areas.
Last week, 23 projects were given federal funding under the Regional Jobs and Investment Packages program, with many of them directly farm related.
Ross Larsson, Mara Global, said a $1.68 million federal grant through Kyogle Council would combine with $2.3m from state coffers and $60,000 of the company’s funds to upgrade Culmaran Road, west of Mallanganee. The investment will allow greater and safer truck movements, further investment in infrastructure and more jobs. The soybean and corn processing facility already employs 20 people and Mr Larsson expected another 10 to 15 jobs to be created within three years.
At Casino, Solaris Nutraceutical – formerly Puf Ventures – received $2.5m from the federal government to help build a secure, 10 hectare greenhouse to grow medical marijuana, provided the Office of Drug Control approves their application. President Michael Horsfall said the grant success proved there was government support “at all levels” for the venture, which has the possibility of directly employing up to 300 people.
Coffs Harbour blueberry co-operative, OzGroup, received $1m to expand its export market into Asia. The Co-operative currently employs more than 100 in its packing plant and services dozens of small, family-owned orchards and its monthly turn-over now exceeds that of its annual gross only a few years ago.
At Nana Glen, west of Coffs Harbour, an organic food hub is taking shape and a federal grant of $400,000 will help create an 80 square metre retail space, cool rooms and a hothouse, to deliver fresh farm produce from 50 producers direct to consumers.
Other grant recipients included $147,000 to expand Oneva Holding’s macadamia processing facility at Alstonville, $50,000 to fit out the artisan Tweed Valley Whey Farmhouse Cheese factory at Burringbar, upskilling food tourism operators through a $15,000 grant to Northern Rivers Food at Eltham via Lismore, and $137,000 to Food Machines Australia to help build a new factory at Wauchope.