Virginia Farm Produce is the quintessential example of a business that has evolved from humble beginnings and adapted to industry challenges to become one of the leading potato growing companies in Australia.

Now, new recruit Ryan Densley is tasked with leading the South Australian business further into the future, as Dimi Kyriakou reports.

The key to business revolution is evolution, and Virginia Farm Produce is testament to this fact.

The story of the third-generation family farming group begins with Jack Farmer in 1956. A farmer by name and a farmer by nature, Jack originally began growing potatoes and, over the generations, Virginia Farm Produce has expanded to hold a diverse portfolio of potatoes, onions, almonds and livestock.

Since its inception, potatoes have remained the key commodity for the company, and its diversification into other areas resulted from this commitment. Virginia Farm Produce now spreads across 80,000 acres in two growing regions with differentmicroclimates

in South Australia. Potatoes, onions and almonds are grown on theoriginal farming site in Virginia, north of Adelaide, while potatoes and livestock are located some 250 kilometres away in Keith near the Victorian border, to ensure the year-round supply of potatoes and close the production loop for the business.


A technological evolution

Forward-thinking has held the family business in good stead, particularly through some of the toughest times in South Australia’s potato industry. When Australia’s then-largest potato supplier Oakville Produce (formerly known as Moraitis Group) entered receivership in 2016, it sparked an era of evolution for Virginia Farm Produce. Now directly exposed to the retailers, the company quickly expanded on a domestic scale.

“That comes with a lot of growing pains,” Ryan says. “What happened with Moraitis and Oakville helped to spur the innovation and evolution of the business. That got us to a stage where we have future-proofed ourselves with land, water, machinery, equipment and people, and the current customer demands that level of expertise in your business. We don’t have customers; we have partners, and they’re talking to us about five- to 10-year goals. It’s been a big shift and that’s really important.”

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