Tropical North Queensland waste warrior wins coveted national award
Atherton Tablelands entrepreneur Krista Watkins says she is over the moon to have been named the AgriFutures Australia Rural Woman of the year.
The award, announced at a ceremony in Canberra, is Australia’s leading prize in acknowledging and supporting the critical role women play in rural and regional businesses, industries and communities.
Ms Watkins told TropicNow she was stunned when her name was read out.
"I just sat in my seat.
"I had to find my legs," she laughed.
“The award means I can magnify this opportunity to reduce unwanted produce, so that we can create a more sustainable and profitable future."
Ms Watkins is the Managing Director of Natural Evolution Foods, a now global family business she runs with her husband, Robert, at Walkamin.
The business was born after the couple discovered a way to turn green, seconds bananas into nutritious flour.
It’s since grown to include nutritional supplements, beauty products, healing ointments and animal feed.
In announcing the award, AgriFutures Australia managing director John Harvey described Ms Watkins as a true innovator.
“She is creating change and is driving an inspiring revolution in looking at different ways to generate new on-farm revenue streams and business in regional and rural Australia,” he said.
Ms Watkins won a $10-thousand bursary, which she’ll use to further develop her next project, involving by-products from sweet potatoes, an industry which wastes 50 tonnes of spuds per acre on average, due largely to the product failing to meet supermarket specifications.
She told TropicNow a gluten-free flour has already been developed.
“To commercialise a product and bring it to market is a long and involved process so it's great to get this."
“Perhaps next year people will be applying a sweet potato mask to their face each evening because of some as-yet unknown skin benefit.”
The company will also launch a new branch of their company next year, to be known as Evolution Industries, to help find innovative products for every fruit and vegetable industry in Australia.
"We see the driving desire in every fresh produce section for value-added products," Ms Watkins said.
"They all need assistance so Evolution Industries will answer the call of farmers all over Australia."
Krista Watkins beat out Jaru woman Darrylin Gordon, from Western Australia’s Kimberley region, who was named runner-up.
Ms Gordon developed a skills training camp for unemployed locals in her region.