A focus on diversity, sustainability and technology has earned Georgia Beattie the title of Organic Woman of the Year at the 2022 Australian Organic Industry Awards.
Georgia is CEO and Managing Director of Australia’s largest organic mushroom farm, Bulla Park, and received the title at the ceremony hosted by peak industry body Australian Organic Limited (AOL) at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley on 25 November.
Bulla Park has been in operation for more than 30 years, currently employing 70 staff and producing 15 tonnes of mushrooms weekly from two farms on the outskirts of Melbourne.
The company supplies supermarkets and independent retailers nationally and is currently building a facility with brand new automation technology not seen anywhere in the world, aiming to double in size each year with the support of a multinational business partner.
“My goal is to show Australia that agriculture can be done in a clean, sustainable way and doesn’t need to rely on chemicals,” Georgia said.
“I’ve brought a business partner onboard that specialises in tech and automation because I believe being smart in these areas means we can compete with conventional farming and ensure going organic doesn’t compromise yield.
“In 2008 I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, and the best way I was able to heal myself was eating good, clean, organic food.
“So, I decided to quit my job in tech and create a blank canvas on what kind of farm I wanted to buy. It just had to meet three criteria – organic, grown indoors vertically (for climate change resilience) and ability to create alternate protein and snack products. Mushrooms ended up being the winner!
“It’s been an interesting journey so far, and I’ve got some big aspirations for the future.”
Georgia is a board member of Rowing Australia and the Australian Mushroom Growing Association, as well as ACO Certification Ltd, Australia’s largest certifier for organic and biodynamic produce.
Through these positions she has worked to help push the agriculture industry towards a 50:50 gender representation and greater cultural diversity.
“I have been able to help change two constitutions within the industry to reflect greater gender diversity, as well as codes of conduct to ensure females do feel safe to speak up and be leaders in agriculture,” Georgia said.
After a recent experience in agriculture where Georgia was told that ‘diversity was a trend’, she has decided to dedicate this year of being Organic Woman of the Year towards developing a program to support agricultural businesses in creating diversity in their leadership teams and boards.
“Diversity is not a trend that is going away, and 50 per cent of the population being relevant to leadership positions certainly isn’t going away either.
“Other industries are well aware of the benefits of cultural and gender diversity; however, there are parts of agriculture that have an exciting opportunity ahead. Cultural and gender diversity is one of the greatest assets on my farm – it’s only natural that it is represented in my leadership team.
“I like to take time out from my business to share my journey and highlight that you don’t need to be a third-generation farmer to be in the industry. You can decide to do something that aligns more to your values, and for me growing clean food and feeding people is a pretty big deal!
“Agriculture needs smart, diverse skillsets now, more than ever. Fresh eyes on current practices and processes will help the industry become more competitive.
“I think it is a really exciting time for diversity in agriculture.”
Georgia is also a Non-Executive Director of Second Bite, a social enterprise that collects food nationally from major supermarkets and redistributes surplus fresh food to those in need.
Georgia has recently begun studying Carbon Neutral Agriculture at the University of Melbourne through a Farmers for Climate Action Scholarship.
AOL Chief Executive, Niki Ford, said Australia’s $2 billion a year organic industry is filled with innovative, driven, and successful women.
“To look at the achievements of each and every woman nominated for this award is an inspiration to me and an ornament to our industry,” Ms Ford said.
Photos of the Industry Award winners can be viewed at this link.
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