Grapeful for good fortune

Headshot of Nicolette Barbas
Nicolette BarbasHarvey-Waroona Reporter
Rodger Fahl on his Hamel farm. Photo: Nicolette Barbas
Camera IconRodger Fahl on his Hamel farm. Photo: Nicolette Barbas

Premium table grape producers Rodger and Liz Fahl continue to go from strength to strength, growing their presence in the international market after sending out more than 400,000 boxes of their Fruitco fruit in the past 12 months.

In 2016 the couple entered into a partnership with Ben Tanner and Robert Nugan from Fresh Produce Group WA to grow high-quality table grapes and have since conquered the market, supplying all Coles and IGA stores and 80 per cent of Woolworths outlets across the State.

Fruitico grows nine varieties of seasonal grapes including sweet globe, autumn crisp, cotton candy, sweet nectar, sweet celebration, Jack salute, midnight beauty, adora and sweet sapphire.

Mr Fahl said the demand for grapes and good quality fruit in Asia was also high.

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“This past year has been our biggest yet,” he said. “Four years ago when my wife and I first started producing table grapes we were sending out around 30,000 boxes of fruit, this year we sent out more than 400,000 and within two years we will be sending out around 600,000.”

The 120ha farm in Hamel is one of two farms the Fahls operate.

“The original farm in Meelon was my wife’s family’s which we started our family business on 20 years ago. For us it was always going to be an export-focused business, we just had to find the right entry point.”

Supplying 80 per cent of the table grape industry in WA takes a team, and a big one at that.

“We were picking here four weeks ago and had 220 staff on plus an additional 50 assisting in the head office, and at the rate our business is growing we are constantly on the lookout for staff.”

When discussing Fruitico’s future, Mr Fahl said negotiations with Alcoa were in the works.

“The Hamel farm was owned by Alcoa until my wife and I bought it off them and now we’re looking to acquire the land opposite, which is also Alcoa owned, and turning it into housing so we can put up more backpackers.”

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