Market gardeners in Werribee South could be among the growers set to benefit from a national fund set up by supermarket giant Coles to help small producers, farmers and manufacturers to grow their business.
Coles managing director John Durkan and ambassador Curtis Stone visited Werribee South vegetable farm Fresh Select last Thursday to announce the Coles Nurture Fund, which will provide $50 million over five years in grants and interest-free loans to fund the development of new market-leading products, technologies and processes.
Mr Durkan said the fund could help small businesses create more productive and innovative ways of working.
“Coles wants to hear exciting and ambitious plans from small entrepreneurs about how they can deliver new and better products to customers, or about ideas they have for innovative business systems that will improve how they get product to market,” Mr Durkan said.
“Modest financial support can make the difference in getting great ideas up and running,” he said.
The fund will be open to Australian businesses with less than $25 million in annual revenue and 50 or fewer full-time employees.
A panel comprising three Coles directors and Mr Stone will assess applications for funding, with the support of independent industry advice.
Fresh Select managing director John Said believes the fund will help make a difference to many small businesses.
For almost 20 years, Fresh Select has supplied cabbage, lettuce, cauliflower and broccoli to
Coles, relying on innovative techniques to increase its vegetable production each year and the size of its Duncans Road farm.
“The financial support that Coles is prepared to make to small businesses will make the world of difference,” Mr Said said.
“Today will hopefully be the start of many opportunities for small enterprises who have the desire to get out there. Fifty million dollars over five years is a decent amount of money and it is really exciting to see an iconic Australian company supporting small businesses.”
Businesses can submit an application for funding, alongside a business plan, by visiting www.coles.com.au/nurturefund