Gavin King

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Walkamin banana flour innovators head for bright lights of the Big Apple


The team at Natural Evolutions are accustomed to being recognised for their innovative work in bringing banana flour to the world.

But nothing could quite prepare them for their latest honour: being named a finalist in the 2017 Edison Awards, to be held in New York City in April.

The Edison Awards celebrate the world's "products, services and solutions that represent the best in innovation."

TropicNow spoke to Rob and Krista Watkins about their remarkable rise to global recognition.

What does the recognition at these awards mean to you guys?
On a personal level it means a lot. It hasn't been an easy road to get to where we are now.
We’ve worked tirelessly to create something and pioneer an industry. We’ve had our share of obstacles, aside from the fact that green bananas are very difficult to peel!
As Edison himself said "They remind us that what we can dream, we can achieve.”
Producing an ethical food that changes the world has been a long time dream for Rob so to see it happen is very rewarding of all the effort and focus, the conscious decision to not get caught up in the maybe’s and doubt that you have when entering a new venture.
Obviously the recognition is wonderful for the company. We want to see our company succeed but more than that we want to keep changing lives and there’s no doubt about it from animals to humans our customers are getting results.
It's also confirmation for those that have believed in our vision and helped us.

How did the nomination as a finalist come about?
We have made many scientific discoveries right here in Tropical North Queensland. We’ve found the richest source of Resistant Starch, Lady finger bananas contain 5HTP (serotonin which is unheard of in food) and our flours are anti-bacterial.
Why? Because our processing technique is entirely unique in 2017.
Never before has such an incredible, valuable foods processing technique been created. We’ve undergone a massive leap like horse and cart to spaceship in only a few years.
Not only is the processing technique NutroLock worthy of global recognition but so too are the products. We have people contacting us everyday about the positive changes they and their family are experiencing.
We’ve put it out there for 3,000 senior business executives and academics from across the USA to have their say.
They’ve spoken by choosing us as finalist so now let's hope that we can bring home the gold for Australia and FNQ!

What is it about your product that has achieved such incredible recognition for innovation?
As many people know we began first by making banana flour, we were the first company in the world to commercially produce it and it has gained great popularity.
We’ve led the world in that area and as you can imagine many have since followed.
We’ve found ourselves having to compete with inferior products made in third world countries that have no food standards, are unfit for human consumption and are easily imported into places like Australia.
Suddenly we were competing in an industry we created. In Australia we have very rigorous food standards, and we deal with local and national-level standards, and recently of our own accord we have obtained Japanese pharmaceutical standard.
We needed to make manufacturing in Australia affordable while never compromising on quality.
NutroLock technology was designed entirely in house by Rob Watkins. NutroLock takes a green banana to powder in under 25 minutes, and we are working ion Version II which will see that time come down to 10 minutes.
It’s an inline, natural, raw process that has no harsh high speed milling. We ensure that the molecular structure of our fibres are retained.
We’ve undertaken scientific analysis and proven that NutroLock locks in fresh 20-50 times higher than standard food processing. All of a sudden we have very affordable food processing which will see a two-person workforce produce 1 tonne on a single shift - all to the highest food standards.

What's next for you guys - will the product be available in the US? 
Yes – the product will be available throughout the US and Canada as we are now in talks with major retailers.
One thing we’ve learnt is that it's important to work with distribution networks that have food standards and a commitment to supporting real food products that change the world in a positive way.
We know that our facility here in Walkamin won’t be able to supply the ever growing market of banana flour or resistant starch to the world so we have structured a design and manufacturing team right here in North Queensland to take our NutroLock technology and enable it to be easily transported all over the world and other regions in Australia for the highest quality food processing in the world.