Having the distinction of being one of Australia’s iconic fresh fruit products, the red tipped banana is one of those great stories of innovation and bucking the trend from farmers in Tropical North Queensland.
Most Australians and some readers from overseas will have seen the vibrant red tipped banana or ecobanana as its known standing out from the crowd in their local markets. This is no accident.
The red tip designed, developed and patented by Frank and Dianne Sciacca, a husband and wife team from Pacific Coast Ecobananas, identifies the method by which the banana was grown.
For consumers in the know the red tip has become like a beacon, drawing them to bananas grown much like they were over 50 years ago.
While the red tip is believed to be the only trademarked ‘colour on fruit’ in the world the more interesting fact is, it signifies the banana has been grown using an Ecoganic TM method. Dianne says, “Frank, over the last 14 years has developed and perfected this method of growing which produces healthier, creamier tasting bananas but we needed a way to differentiate it in the largely oversupplied marketplace”.
Frank came up with the idea of colouring the banana so consumers could easily very quickly separate them from others. Dianne says, “I came home one day and found bananas with their tips painted red and Frank saying, this is what I want them to look like. I wasn’t convinced in the slightest and might have said, who in the hell is going to eat a painted banana”? Words she’s had to eat in many articles over the years.
While it took some time to perfect, Dianne and Frank now use a food grade wax tip to demonstrate their divergence from the norm, but apart from colour how is the ecobanana different?
Frank says, “It’s all in the growing method. We developed and patented an integrated ecological management system where we monitor the interaction and dependence of insects, grasses, weeds and crop with the overall aim of developing a healthy ecosystem alongside sustainable farming. This is the Ecoganic method”.
Going green so to speak wasn’t a popular decision with quite a number of other growers in the industry who felt this would somehow endanger their operations, but Frank says, “I was seeing more and more pests and diseases in our bananas and the issue of run off to the Great Barrier Reef was just being raised, so we could see the current ways just weren’t working”.
“You get dependant on pesticides and fertilisers, it’s like a drug. You apply it and you know what result you are going to get, but in the long run, like pretty much everyone else, I ended up sterilising the soil. I knew we couldn’t keep going the way we were and there had to be another way. A better way of growing”.
Frank spent two years researching and trialling different methods of growing bananas on their farm and he says, “I’m always learning something new and after 14 years we can still see the regeneration happening on our place.
When you look at the farm as an ecosystem you can very quickly see when one part is out of balance and take action to correct it. This also means not using any chemicals or products which kill living organisms in your ecosystem. It takes a lot of time and energy to develop”.
While many consumers see the value of this farming method in principle paying for it is another thing. When doing market research Dianne says, “One of the big sticking points with consumers was the question of why our bananas were more expensive in comparison, especially since we weren’t using loads of chemicals and synthetic fertilisers”.
“We needed to educate people in the process and the fact you aren’t just paying for a banana. You are paying for the natural capital in our land and all the work our team does to reinvest in it. I have a feeling we will be doing this for some time but in the long run what is the alternative”?
To see more on ‘What is a red tipped banana’ and ‘How Ecoganic farming is different from Traditional’ click on the videos below.
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