By Melissa Keogh
The champion of South Australia’s horticultural sector – the South Australian Produce Market (SAPM) – is celebrating 30 years in the field.
It’s a time over which the state’s only wholesale market has achieved a self-sufficient energy supply and a continued reputation for supporting local growers who attribute much of their livelihoods to the fruit and veg hub.
SAPM trades 250,000 tonnes of fresh produce between 45 wholesalers, 60 growers and hundreds of retail operators each year, worth an estimated wholesale value of $550 million.
Although the SAPM is celebrating its 30th anniversary in northern Adelaide this month, its extended history dates back to the days of the East End Market on East Terrace in Adelaide’s CBD.
The East End Market operated for more than a century until its closure in 1988.
SAPM CEO Angelo Demasi says three decades of innovation, growth and business philosophies have led to the special milestone for the market’s Pooraka home.
“We recognise how important the grower, wholesaler and retailer supply chain are to the public and the efforts that they go to, to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to the public,” he says.
“We are undertaking many projects to ensure the sustainability of the market, and the businesses that rely on it for many more years to come.”
Many of the market’s growers and wholesalers are long standing or multi-generational fruit and vegetable growers including Mercurio Bros, Parker and Sons, and Ceravolo Orchards.
The market is renowned for its early morning activity, with growers rising in the wee hours to transport their goods from farm to pallet. Buyers include IGA, Foodland, independent retailers and greengrocers.
The SAPM has continued to transition over the past 12 months, with an expansion project set to open the market to the general public for the first time.
“The development will include a retail component which will include a factory or more like a farm-gate outlet for consumers to purchase fresh food and affordable produce direct from market,” Angelo says.
The food precinct expansion will also allow food processors an opportunity to take their business “to the next level” with shared infrastructure including loading docks, and education and cooking areas.
The market is also home to the state’s first onsite energy microgrid, comprising a 4.2MWh lithium-ion battery, a 2.5MW solar PV system comprising 8500 solar panels, and a 2.5MW onsite generator.
It will supply the site’s entire energy demand and also export power to the National Electricity Market.
“This will enable all of our growers and wholesalers to enjoy cheap reliable power to ensure they continue to be cost competitive both on a local, national and international level,” Angelo says.
The market holds the interests of the horticultural industry at heart, often playing an advocacy role in tough times such as major flood events that affect growers.
In more recent times, SAPM has backed the strawberry industry by installing a metal detector to help boost consumer confidence following the national strawberry needle crisis.
In September 2018 a number of needles were found deliberately planted inside strawberries sold across the country.
SA is on the cusp of its strawberry season which typically runs between October and May.
The metal detector – supported by $50,000 from the State Government – will be communal, so it can be used by all local strawberry growers as well as other horticulture-related commodities.
The state produced about 6000 tonnes of strawberries with a farmgate value of $42 million in 2016/17.
Angelo admits the running of the market isn’t without its challenges, but SA’s food industry is ramping up.
“The optimism is good and we have started to see a surge in exports,” he adds.
Header photo is SA Produce Market’s Greg Pattinson, left, and Angelo Demasi.
Industry in focus: Agribusiness
Throughout the month of October, the state’s agribusiness industry will be under the magnifying glass as part of I Choose SA.
South Australian farmers, producers, agricultural researchers and biosecurity workers are the lifeblood of our country communities and are big players in the state’s overall economic welfare. Read more stories here.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.