COVINO Farms at Longford will embark on a $5.02 million expansion project to transform the company from a farming operation to a national food company.
The state government will contribute $1.5 million from its Regional Growth Fund to the expansion, which will include a new vegetable processing factory, new research, development and testing laboratories, offices, vegetable and salads processing equipment and IT infrastructure.
The expansion will include a new 4763m2 building of steel and EPS (expanded polystyrene) housing the new factory and an 880m2 despatch/loading bay and laboratory.
A new 440m2 research and development, training and administration facility will also be built.
Deputy premier and Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said the project would create up to 60 new jobs and secure the existing 200 employees.
“This project will transform Covino Farms from a farming operation into a national food business, operating out of five sites across six states with new innovative product and export potential,” he said.
“The 2600 acre Longford farm now supplies vegetables and salads to markets in Victoria, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide and is negotiating to expand distribution.
“This will involve an increase in Covino Farms’ processing capacity, which requires government funding to secure investment in time to seize market and employment opportunities.
“Projects such as this one at Covino Farms will also enable the Latrobe Valley to diversify away from the reliance on the coal-fired power generation industry.”
The expansion will also see the purchase of new production lines and ancillaries including:
3600 bags per hour salad line;
1350kg per hour coleslaw line;
2000kg per hour multi washer preparation line;
1200kg per hour washing and drying line; and
20,000kg lettuce or 3000kg salads per hour vacuum cooler.
Gippsland MHR Darren Chester commended the Covino family for their ongoing commitment to Gippsland.
“The Covino family has invested heavily in Gippsland,” he said.
“They are excelling in the farm-fresh ready-to-eat market as well as supplying its salad products to major supermarkets and fast food outlets.
“Their commitment to the region remains strong and they have indicated that they will use local tradesmen and contractors wherever possible during the construction of the new processing factory at Longford.
“This project has the potential to create new opportunities for other vegetable farmers in Gippsland, who may be able to link into the supply chain.
“I welcome the support for this project from the Victorian Coalition Government and I look forward to seeing more Gippsland produce on supermarket shelves.”
Ugo and Maria Covino started the family business on a 16-acre property in the Dandenong Ranges in 1972 before moving to 500 acres in Longford to take advantage of reliable artesian water and a temperate climate that enables year-round vegetable production.