Woolworths has open applications for its Dairy Innovation Fund that’s offering a total of $5 million in grants to dairy farmers over the next three years for on-farm improvements.
Designed with peak industry groups, the fund will help dairy farmers innovate and increase on-farm efficiency, sustainability and resilience to manage seasonal variations through investments in technology and infrastructure.
All Australian dairy farmers who contribute milk to Woolworths’ dairy supply chain – directly or through processors – can apply to access up to $100,000 each in grants, with the first round of applications open from December 1.
The fund supports the Australian Dairy Plan’s emphasis on innovation as a key driver to reduce the cost of production and increase on-farm profitability.
With research from Dairy Australia showing around 80 per cent of dairy farmers intend to make investments in their business in the next two years, grants from Woolworths’ Dairy Innovation Fund will help bring some of those plans to life.
“Our Dairy Innovation Fund will help Australian farmers invest in projects that increase farming efficiency and modernise their operations with new technology,” Woolworths director of buying, Paul Harker said.
“Dairy farmers have faced tough conditions in recent years through droughts and bushfire. The Dairy Innovation Fund will help farmers invest for the future, while also increasing resilience to withstand these types of challenges.
“This fund will assist in turning long-planned farm improvements into a reality, so we’re inviting dairy farmers to tell us how they would use up to $100,000 to improve their operations.
“We look forward to supporting projects which will make a meaningful difference to Australian dairies and contribute to the long-term prosperity of the sector.”
These grants add to Woolworths’ existing support for Australian dairy farmers through its 10 cent per litre drought levy on all two and three litre fresh own brand milk varieties, which has already delivered more than $60 million to 450 dairy farmers since 2018.
In response to rising farmgate prices negotiated between dairy farmers and milk processors, Woolworths has also accepted tens of millions in wholesale cost increases from its dairy suppliers in recent years.
The fund has been designed in consultation with peak industry groups Australian Dairy Farmers, Dairy Australia, National Farmers’ Federation, Premium Milk Ltd and the NSW Farmers’ Association Dairy Committee.
The consultation has ensured the fund will provide effective support for smart investments in key infrastructure, such as water and fodder, or agriculture technology and sustainability initiatives.
“This is a welcome initiative by Woolworths and acknowledges the need for investment in on-farm efficiencies to boost the profitability and long-term sustainability of dairy farms.
“Including those in NSW recovering from the impacts drought and bushfires, on top of low farm gate returns in recent years,” chairman of the NSW Dairy Committee, Colin Thompson said.
Chairman of Queensland-based Premium Milk Ltd, Peter Garratt said the funding would help drive efficiencies on-farm.
“We’re excited by the opportunity to make farmers’ ambitions a reality through the grants offered by the Woolworths Dairy Innovation Fund,” he said.
“We believe there are tremendous opportunities to see farms continuing to innovate, investing in technology and capital infrastructure that will drive efficiencies and profitability of our industry into the future.”
The Dairy Innovation Fund will support about 60 businesses over the next three years, with yearly grant application rounds open to all dairy farmers in the Woolworths supply chain, including those supplying vendor brands.
Applications for the Dairy Innovation Fund are open until 16 February 2021 and can be made at woolworths.com.au/dairyinnovationfund