Meet Some of our Growers…

History

2001

2001

After the decline of the local banana industry, members of the Coffs Coast Sikh community formulate the partnership Oz Berries, beginning with 4 grower families.

2004

2004

Oz Berries grows to over 18 growers, allowing local families to continue farming on the Coffs Coast.

2006

2006

Oz Berries purchases its first purpose-built packing facility in Woolgoolga, employing over 100 staff during peak season and ensuring the sustainability of the Oz Group brand.

2009

2009

The company continues to grow, producing over 600 tonnes of blueberries per year and hiring more permanent local staff.

2013

2013

Oz Group Co-operative forms, allowing growers to concentrate on farming practices and allowing professionals to take over in production, accounts, marketing and distribution.

2015

2015

Oz Group partners with Driscoll’s, ensuring a steady supply of berries for Australian supermarkets.

Oz Group opens a new packhouse in Isles Drive, Coffs Harbour: allowing for greater production and more automated technologies.

 

2016

2016

Oz Group introduces raspberries and blackberries to its farming and distribution

Oz Group opens its rural store in Woolgoolga to cater for farmer supply needs on the Coffs Coast

 

2017

2017

Oz Group becomes the biggest blueberry supplier in Australia, producing 37 million punnets of blueberries, 1.1 million punnets of raspberries, and 202 thousand punnets of blackberries in the 2017/2018 financial year

2018

2018

Brett Kelly joins Oz Group as its CEO.

Oz Group continues its passion in sustainability and farming practices through the expansion of its agronomy team.

 

2019

2019

Oz Group holds their first Bee Pollination Expo, allowing networking opportunities between growers and pollination experts.

Oz Group continues to grow, with over 30 permanent employees and hundreds of seasonal workers employed each year.

 

Our Board

Stephen Thandi

Stephen is Oz Group’s Chairman  and a local businessman who owns and runs Coffs City Glass and Aluminium, as well as Northern Beaches Glass and Aluminium. He started farming as a hobby after work and on weekends when a tenant left his farmland in a derelict state after the downturn in the local banana industry. He completed a Certificate III in Horticulture at TAFE and began working on his own on one farm and started working with a friend on another.

Stephen joined Oz Berries in 2005 and saw joining Oz Group as a ‘no-brainer’- he could just focus on the farming and saw his membership as a way to be able to relax knowing that his fruit would be quality controlled, packed and marketed for him. He sees the strength of the co-op in its collective nature: that when working together local farmers can achieve better things. The co-op markets for the collective and has stronger buying and selling power.

Stephen was encouraged by other members of the co-op to nominate for the board of directors in 2014 due to his life experience. Having run a successful local business for almost 30 years, Stephen was able to bring that valuable knowledge with him to give insight to the board and Oz Group’s leadership.

Stephen understands the complexities of the farming industry and hopes, with the help of Oz Group’s Agronomy Team, that farmers are able to maintain their compliance with government regulations. He also wishes to see a berry industry that is sustainable in the long term, with supply and demand in good balance.

Harvey Singh

Harvey grew up in the local area and has experience as both a primary school teacher and as a Police Constable. He applied to join Oz Group in 2007 after realising the potential of working as a collective group, rather than the individual farmers he saw decline with the local banana industry. He had friends and relatives working with Oz Berries and had heard positive things about the company. Harvey saw the ability of Oz Berries to help create a viable a sustainable blueberry industry for the Coffs Coast community.

Returning to the local area in 2011 after working as a Police Constable in South Brisbane, Harvey recognised the flexibility that farming could offer to him, allowing him time to spend with his wife and young daughter. He also saw the financial benefits and rapid growth of the local blueberry industry and was keen to become a part of it. He began farming with his parents in the Corindi area. His family now runs three blueberry plantations located in Corindi.

Harvey joined the board as a way to challenge himself and to actively participate in the growth of Oz Group Co-operative. He has been blown away by the progression that Oz Group has made and feels privileged to have seen the company transition from a small packing shed, to a world class packing facility with automated packing lines. Harvey is impressed with the loyalty and on-going support the growers have shown the co-op.

Harvey hopes to see a rise in interest of locals to work on farms and help growers to manage peak harvest times. He hopes we can lessen pressures on the farmers that have to rely on backpackers to complete seasonal work.

Justin Hundle

Justin is Oz Group’s youngest board member. He grew up in Woolgoolga, helping out on his parent’s farm. Justin attended Griffith University and has completed a bachelor’s degree in International Business, majoring in finance. He then went on to postgraduate study in financial planning. His study, holiday visits home, and family background in farming has ignited his passion for the berry industry. He can appreciate the co-op’s role in helping those who love and appreciate the Coffs Coast have fulfilling careers.

Justin’s family have been members of the co-operative since 2013, realising the benefits of working together, having marketing, packing and freight dealt with by the co-op and the positive impact on the work-life balance of growers. Initially a blueberry grower, Justin’s passion for farming has expanded into blackberries and raspberries, with the challenge being one that continues to drive his enthusiasm for farming.

Oz Group has become Australia’s largest distributor of blueberries and a seat on the board was something that Justin simply could not refuse. He is a keen member of the board, not only with hopes of bringing new perspectives, but also recognising the growth he can obtain from working with industry experts like CEO, Brett Kelly.

Justin recognises the various strengths of the co-op and hopes to help it flourish into the future. His passion lies in the continuation of the co-operative and wishes to help aid in its sustainability. He can appreciate the convenience of growers focusing on their farming and dropping their fruit off to be packed, marketed and distributed. He acknowledges the co-op’s ability to keep packing costs low and the rewarding of members through the rebate scheme. Justin is also excited about the co-op’s ability to source world leading plant varieties.

Paul Saro

Paul is a new member of the board of directors. Paul’s family are local to the Coffs Coast and have been in the industry for many years working with other farms and companies before purchasing their own family farm in 2010. Paul took over his family’s business in 2015 and decided to join Oz Group Co-op. The family now own 2 farms in the Corindi area.

Paul has a background in banking and business. After growing up on the Coffs Coast he completed a Bachelor of Business in Brisbane. He then returned to the area, working for multiple banking institutions before realising the work life balance he could achieve by working on the farm and joining the co-operative. He also recognised the financial benefits and the sustainability of the local industry when working within the co-operative structure.

Paul recognises the important role the co-op plays in the lives of local berry growers. He sees the best way of sustaining the prosperity of the industry is by working together to achieve bigger goals than one could make individually. Paul acknowledges the superior facilities of the co-op’s packhouse and the access that co-op members have to world-class plant genetics, as well as the relationships the business has developed with industry leaders.

Paul decided to join the board to help grow the business further and ensure its prosperity into the future. He sees the future of the industry in new genetics, growing in substrates and expanding the footprint of jumbo variety blueberries. He hopes to help the co-operative develop equilibrium in supply and demand to avoid peak period oversupply to Australian supermarkets.

Amanpreet Lehl

Amanpreet and his family began in bananas but decided to take a leap of faith in 1996 and began growing blueberries. The family recognised the need to stick together to help maintain consistency and quality, whilst avoiding competition with their neighbours. This philosophy was what help create the success the co-operative has seen today, working with other growers.

Aman grew up farming. After high school he studied a Bachelor of Applied Science/ Bachelor of Education (Secondary) but never lost his passion for farming and continued to work on the farm whilst teaching. In 2012, the family purchased a second farm and diversified into macadamias, the additional workload saw Aman commit fulltime to farming. His passion and interest in horticulture has seen him diversify further, with a large plantation of raspberries being added to the farm from 2016. As a berry grower, Aman has focused both on field grown and substrates for his berry plantings.

Aman has joined the board of directors in 2019 as he wants to see the co-op continue to grow and benefit both consumers and farmers in our region. He continues to recognise the importance of unity within the business and is encouraged by enthusiasm and teamwork present within the co-op.

He also recognises the challenges that the environment and industry currently pose for the co-operative, including the negative impacts of drought and the potential for oversupply into Australian Supermarkets. Aman hopes to help Oz Group succeed and remain profitable long into the future, whilst providing continued value to its grower members.

Freshcare Certification

Freshcare is Australia’s largest on-farm assurance program that focuses on food safety and farming sustainability.

Oz Group Co-op Grower Members are all either Freshcare Certified or going through the Freshcare (or equivalent food safety) Certification. The Freshcare Food Safety and Quality Edition 4 is a Code of Practice that all growers must comply with in order to maintain their Freshcare Certification.

The growers are audited at their farm annually during harvest season where the auditor checks against Code Elements covering areas including (but not limited to): Water, Facilities and Equipment, Fertiliser and Chemicals, as well as Traceability records.

You can learn more about this certification here: https://www.freshcare.com.au/standards/food-safety-quality/

Fair Farms Initiative

In January 2109, Oz Group Co-op growers participated in a pilot program with Growcom to learn more about fair employment practices in the horticulture industry.

 

Our Partners

Driscoll’s

In 2010, the Driscoll’s name arrived in Australia. Through partnering with Driscoll’s, Oz Group has access to top varieties of blueberry, raspberry and blackberry plants.

Driscoll’s are the marketing and distribution partners of Oz Group, located within the packhouse site in Coffs Harbour, enabling Oz Group to supply their locally grown berries Australia-wide.

Australian Blueberry Growers Association

The Australian Blueberry Growers’ Association is the representative association of blueberry growers formed in the mid 1970’s in order to consolidate and progress the Australian industry. One main goal of the association is to ensure an Australian blueberry industry that produces quality fruit and is profitable and environmentally sustainable. The market is expanding worldwide due to the recognition of the blueberry’s great flavour and health benefits.

Mountain Blue

Mountain Blue is a family owned and operated company, established in 1978. Through its partnership with Mountain Blue, Oz Group has access to the latest blueberry genetics and newly developed blueberry varieties.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 

Where are your berries grown and packed?

Oz Group has a membership of over 140 growers and is 100% Australian farmer owned. These farmers are located on the Mid North Coast of NSW. The farms are spread from Grafton in the North to Macksville in the South.

The co-op also has an organic grower located in QLD.

Our blueberries are packed in our state-of-the-art packing facility in Coffs Harbour. Our raspberries and blackberries are packed on farm.

 

How is your fruit harvested?

Every berry we sell has been hand-picked from an Australian farm.

 

Do you use pesticides?

Oz Group growers use an integrated pest management method, which includes the use of both natural and synthetic means to control pests and diseases. Oz Group growers use only registered products approved by the APVMA in accordance to label and permit directives.

In addition, external and internal audits/certification, workshops and extensive testings are conducted regularly to ensure our growers are highly competent through the production process of quality berries.

All fruit provided to direct to supermarkets is Freshcare Certified.

Oz Group Co-op currently has 2 certified organic berry growers.

 

Is your fruit GMO?

No. Oz Group growers use genetics created through natural and traditional breeding processes and developed by Driscoll’s Australia and Mountain Blue Farms. 

 

Is your packaging recyclable?

Our punnets are created from PET or Polyethylene Terephthalate which is fully recyclable material.

 

How should the berries be stored after purchase?

Berries should be stored in the refrigerator in their purchase packaging to prolong shelf life

 

Do I need to wash my berries before eating?

It is recommended that you wash your berries just before their consumption.