As farmers, entrepreneurs and co-founders of the company Natural Evolution, Krista Watkins and her husband Rob, occupy daily lives similar to the landscapes of their minds; innovative, original, and pioneering. Together, they have grown a booming industry out of the fertile soils of Walkamin, nestled in the lush surrounds of the Atherton Tablelands, North Queensland.
As a duo, they have each played an instrumental role in their company, though Krista’s efforts were recognised in late 2018 when she received state-wide and then national recognition as the AgriFutures Australia Rural Woman of the Year™. Like all ‘overnight’ successes, Natural Evolution’s astounding achievements have been every bit of ten long years in the making.
Running a Lady Finger banana farm in Walkamin, Rob always wondered about the surrounding wildlife’s preference for green bananas. Then came the fateful day he drove over a bunch of unripe Lady Fingers, releasing a powdery explosion into the air. Upon inspection, both Rob and Krista concluded the substance tasted “flour-like,” and “the mad kitchen experiments began.” After dispatch for testing, laboratory results revealed the humble Lady Finger as “the richest source of Resistant Starch ever tested on earth,” and a fantastic source of gluten-free flour that optimally enhances ‘good’ gut bacteria.
It was the sale of the family-owned banana farm that forced the Watkins’ hands. “Rob had an intuition about the banana flour; we believed his discovery had to be brought to market.”
“Our first-born daughter was four months old, however, with the time of the essence, and together with Mum’s help, I returned to educator work to help finance our dream. Leaving my small baby was a huge commitment. I’d come home and help pack orders at night, and be up again at 4 or 5am to process more, before starting school for the day. There were many, many late nights, early mornings, and a few all-nighters.”
Fast forward a decade, and the Watkins are proud owners of a world-first pharmaceutical-grade Banana Flour Factory. Together, they are renowned for Rob’s Nurtrolock (nutrient preserving) technology, Krista’s HR and marketing acumen, and their globally in-demand Green Banana Flour products, now extending to baking goods, beauty treatments, health supplements, and animal produce.
The bursaries granted by Krista’s AgriFutures awards also contributed to researching sweet potato by-products, an industry which wastes an average of 50 tonnes per acre.
“We’ve since launched our Gold Sweet Potato range, with Woolworths stocking our products from March 2019. We’re even establishing a sweet potato processing facility in Bundaberg.”
Krista explained their next unveiling, the Plantation Brew Co, brings a Gold Sweet Potato Vodka and an oak-aged Green Banana Rum to market. “Rather than going to waste, we’re collecting the static water that comes-off factory product, to create authentic, sustainable, distilled beverages.”
Beyond production, however, the Watkins have stepped into the realm of educators and enablers, launching Evolution Industries earlier this year. “We’re teaching the magic in the middle, where the research, development, and building behind an innovation occurs.”
Like the namesake of their founding company, Krista and Rob’s floury mix of inquiry, sweet aspiration and pioneering spirit has, quite literally, yielded the richest fruits of Natural Evolution.