A Far North Queensland banana farm is at the forefront of transforming ‘waste’ produce into superfoods that are in hot demand – with expansion plans and an export award to prove it.

Atherton Tableland company Natural Evolution began as a second-generation banana farm but is now a successful manufacturer of superfoods based on banana flour, thanks to the ingenuity of farmer Robert Watkins.

In 2010, he started developing technology to extract flour from the thousands of bananas not suitable for supermarket sale, producing a nutrient-rich, gluten-free flour that is now the basis of Natural Evolution’s product line.

Natural Evolution Managing Director Krista Watkins said the company’s flour, baking mixes and health and beauty supplements were in great demand, with plans to build a much larger manufacturing facility to meet domestic and export demand.

‘We are planning to build a new facility next year that will be 8 to 10 times larger than our current proof-of-concept facility,’ she said.

‘It will be a megastyle processing plant to create products from excess bananas and other plants along the eastern seaboard, including broccoli and sweet potato.

‘We are also starting the Plantation Brew Company, which will create sustainable Australian distilled spirits.’

With existing customers in in Japan, Asia and Europe, and plans to expand its presence in overseas markets, Natural Evolution recently won the Emerging Exporter Award at this year’s Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards.

Ms Watkins said the win was great recognition for the Natural Evolution team, made up of 9 staff in Far North Queensland and key salespeople around the world.

‘Every year we double our sales and, while that’s exciting, it’s challenging to manage a business that’s growing so quickly,’ she said.

‘The award is a great accolade for our hard-working team as a whole.’

Ms Watkins encouraged other companies to consider entering the awards in 2020.

‘I think definitely do it,’ she said.

‘The awards night is a great networking opportunity – a wonderful evening with lots of opportunities on offer.’

Natural Evolution was one of 16 winners announced at the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards Gala on 10 October in Brisbane.

The awards are coordinated by TIQ.

Supporting Queensland exporters is a priority under the Queensland Trade and Investment Strategy 2017–2022.

See the full gallery of photographs from the Awards Gala.