Grown Smart

Hi, I'm Daniel MacKay and my Family has grown Bananas around Tully in North Queensland since 1945 when Grandad, Stanley MacKay, started his first small plantation. Recognised as the pioneer of bananas in this region and dedicating his life to helping fellow banana farmers, Grandad was awarded Australia's highest honour ‘the Medal of the Order of Australia’ in 1985.

Today with my Father Robert, Uncle John, my two brothers, Stephen and Cameron and cousins Barrie and Gavin we continue the banana farming tradition, just on a larger scale. I’m going to take you on a quick farm visit to see how we grow and pack Smart Bananas to make them the best bananas you can enjoy.

North Queensland has a tropical climate, meaning it's warm and wet much of the year – in fact Tully, the town around which our farms are spread, is officially the wettest town in Australia and there is a big gumboot monument as you drive in to prove it! Being warm and so wet provides the ideal conditions to grow magnificent bananas, even though it’s quite often hard for us to work in the extreme wet.

Smart Bananas grow in straight rows in large plantations. We need to do a lot of ground preparation to ensure that when the heavy rain comes erosion does not cause small rivers to destroy the planting and wash top soil out to sea. Over the years we have developed a series of settling ponds to ensure we have zero loss of top soil and keep the environment in balance.

Pictured to the right is Gavin examining the health of some 4 month old plants on his farm. Each plant will produce one bunch of Smart Bananas from a larger purple flower.

"It takes between 9 and 12 months to produce the perfect bunch of Smart Bananas"

Balancing the tree and environment to produce the sweetest bananas, to the right size, with the least amount of damage is the main focus for each of us on our farms each day. It takes between 9 and 12 months to produce the perfect bunch of Smart Bananas. Although we need to add fertilisers to grow our fruit, we are proud to have developed smart practices that have this significantly lower than any other producer in the industry (this actually slows the growth rate and ensures higher sweetness levels).

Each Smart Banana bunch is pruned to have the ideal amount of fruit per tree so that the tree is not stressed but can perfectly develop the nutrients and sweetness for its Smart Banana fruit. At about 50kg per bunch each one is harvested and carried on shoulder, like Cameron shows, is to the padded trailer.

In our packing sheds the bunch has each hand of bananas (about 17 bananas per hand) cut off and placed in large water tubs to wash the fruit and stop the sap bleeding out. All fruit is hand selected and only the best fruit will be packed and labelled as Smart Bananas. You will note that all the fruit is still green when packed - this is because a banana will not ripen well on the palm and goes through a physical change as it yellows where the starch turns to sugars and becomes edible.

Smart Bananas travel along conveyor belts past fans to dry before again being quality checked and individually packaged. This packaging allows the fruit to be sealed in its own perfect environment and now travel undisturbed through the transport and ripening process to you, ready to be enjoyed for all the special elements the Smart Banana represents.

I have had people ask "wouldn’t it be better to not use plastic packaging to protect the environment?" This is a good question and we have performed multiple trials on this. In fact we have found the Smart Banana has less impact on the environment in multiple areas than traditional processes, and that it is actually a friendly and much more sustainable product, leaving a smaller footprint on the planet than other bananas. In saying this, our family is committed to a sustainable earth and we continue to look for better processes to implement, including compostable plastics etc.

Thanks for touring around my family's farms and learning about the Smart Banana.