Co-operative Conversations episode 7 part 1: interview

9 September 2020 18:30 - 19:15


The co-operative advantage

Fiercely proud of their 100% Australian ownership, Oz Group Co-op is passionate about providing their community with the freshest blueberries, raspberries and blackberries through sustainable farming.

Formed in 2001 as a partnership between four Coffs Coast growers. It became a co-op in 2013. Founded by members of the Coffs Coast Sikh community in an innovative pivot after the decline of the local banana industry and has grown to be the biggest blueberry supplier in Australia.

Pete Lewis talks to Stephen Thandi, Oz Group Chair and local businessman – he also owns and runs Coffs City Glass and Aluminium and Northern Beaches Glass and Aluminium.

His path to running a berry co-op is an interesting one: he started farming as a hobby after work and on weekends when a tenant left his farmland in a derelict state after the downturn in the local banana industry. After completing a Certificate III in Horticulture, he joined Oz Berries in 2005 in order to focus on farming with the knowledge that his fruit would be quality controlled, packed and marketed for him. Stephen was encouraged by other members of the co-op to nominate for the board of directors in 2014 due to his life experience running his glass businesses for 30 years.

He sees the strength of the co-op in its collective nature: that when working together local farmers can achieve better things. He will talk about their transition from bananas to berries to the large business they are today, their journey into America and a Driscoll’s partnership, as well as how the different farmers all managed to work together in order to achieve stronger buying and selling power.

Episode host – Pete Lewis

Join Pete Lewis for an inspiring interview series as he explores the journeys of some of Australia’s most interesting and successful co-operatives. Pete’s long and varied experience as a journalist specialising in agriculture will ensure he gets to the heart of the issues you want to hear about.


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