Growing tropical fruit in one of WA’s coldest regions? This Albany grower is proving it’s possible

Banana and sugarcane crops may be more at home in tropical Queensland, but trial crops of the warmth-loving plants are thriving in one of Western Australia’s coldest regions.

The south coast of WA is known for its cooler climate and is the only place in the state to regularly record snowfalls.

But despite this, one farmer has bucked the trend and has managed to grow tropical crops.

Oranje Tractor Wine in Albany grows a variety of fruit and vegetables, with bananas and sugarcane on the list.

Co-owner Murray Gomm is not afraid to try something a little different.

He said that he bought the initial plants from another experimental grower in the region and that as a farmer, Albany was a fantastic place to diversify range.

Oranje Tractor Wine is an organic farm.(ABC Great Southern: Sophie Johnson)

“The thing is with Albany … it’s a very liveable climate,” Mr Gomm said.

“If it doesn’t go below zero [the tropical fruit] are happy. They’ll take a little bit of cool weather.

“As a grower, I guess you look for a niche, something that you can grow down here that maybe you can supply the market early or late.

“I guess we were really attracted to having this abundance, this diversity.”

Large-scale trials next

Although the scale of his bananas and sugarcane is relatively small, Mr Gomm is optimistic at the potential for growing bananas on a larger scale in the region.

Banana and sugarcane crops next to a red shed
Oranje Tractor Wines do not add chemical fertiliser to their soil, so the bananas and sugarcane grow naturally.(ABC Great Southern: Sophie Johnson)

“The taste is incredible, so I think once people taste them, they’ll go wow, ‘I want these. I’ll buy these’,” he said.

“I think we’re used to seeing these really big bananas, probably from Queensland and the north of WA with a beautiful, nice curve on them. These are really small.

“Are people going to buy little bananas? I’m not sure. Will we get an appropriate yield? I’m not sure.

“It would be great to trial Albany or south-west WA as a future banana growing area.”

Small green bananas on a tree
Mr Gomm purchased cool-climate banana varieties.(ABC Great Southern: Sophie Johnson)

Mr Gomm has also been surprised by the success of his sugarcane crop.

As far as he knows, he is the only grower in the area.

“The sugarcane is something that we grow quite successfully here. It’s just something that’s interesting,” he said.

“I’m not sure [who else grows sugarcane]. We need to put a word out or get a Facebook page or something.”

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