One hundred per cent of the growers that make up the Batlow Fruit Cooperative, known as Batlow Apples, have voted ‘Yes’ to a proposed buy-out from investment group AusFarm Fresh.
The vote took place at a co-op meeting on Wednesday, and the thirty members threw their full support behind the plan presented to them by the board. General Manager of the Batlow Fruit Cooperative – which will soon become the Batlow Fruit Company – John Power, said that he is confident the growers made the right decision.
“The board is very grateful for the members proving such unequivocal support,” he said.
“The document that was sent to the members was quite substantial – they had about 350 pages of reading to do – and it included a lot of information and detail about what the business intends to do, so this investment will allow that plan to commence being rolled out.”
The plan includes a number of measures that Mr Power said are necessary for any orchard that intends to stay competitive in the coming decades. He is confident that investment in their equipment, trees, and processes will allow Batlow Apples to not only survive, but thrive.
The plan will be presented to the new board one piece at a time. The company that is investing in Batlow Apples, AusFarm Fresh, is purchasing a 63.3 per cent stake in the new Batlow Fruit Company for $10 million, which gives them decision-making power.
The Batlow Fruit Company’s board, once all the Department of Fair Trading boxes are ticked, will consist of three members from the former co-op board representing the growers; two Australian AusFarm Fresh directors based at their Queensland orchards; and two foreign AusFarm Fresh investors.
That board will decide the process of going about the plan presented to the growers: replanting orchards with higher value apple varieties and with higher yield trees; purchasing more netting to protect trees from hail, flying foxes, and birds; investing in water initiatives like improving irrigation systems to be more efficient; reducing electricity usage in cool storage areas; and updating packaging equipment.
Existing members will receive one fully paid share in the Company for each fully paid Co-operative unit held and one partly paid share for each partly paid Co-operative unit.
AusFarm Fresh Group emerged as an Australian incorporated private company in December 2015, and in February 2016 they bought Stanthorpe Apple Shed and Tomasel Orchards, in Queensland. They have signalled that they do not intend to make any changes to jobs in Batlow.