Menu
Horticulture

Farmers find new future in desert plant

SUCCULENT SEEDS: Kim Felton-Taylor inspects the jojoba plantation.
SUCCULENT SEEDS: Kim Felton-Taylor inspects the jojoba plantation. Contributed

JUDY and Kim Felton-Taylor decided to take on a new venture when they started their jojoba plantation in 1995.

After they stopped growing wheat they were looking for something they could grow using the assets and resources they already had.

Their jojoba plantation takes up 15ha, with 15,000 trees on their property 50km northeast of Goondiwindi.

"We try to plant 1000 plants in spring and 1000 plants in late summer every year," Mr Felton-Taylor said.

"That's how we started off. About 2000 per year. We went into a fairly steep learning curve.

"You plant approximately 90per cent females and 10per cent males. You don't grow it from seed but for a cutting. If you grow it from seed you get 50/50 males and females.

"But we grow it from cuttings to get 90per cent females and 10per cent males because only the female plants provide seed."

Jojoba plants flower in August/September and provide seed from January until March.

"The seed is about the size of a peanut," Mr Felton-Taylor said.

"The seed is 50 per cent oil product. They are self-shedding, they fall off the ground.

"We converted a small wheat harvester to pick the seed up off the ground.

"The average yield is approximately half a tonne per hectare of seed."

Jojoba plants are biannual and provide a good crop every second year.

 

Jojoba seeds are about 50 per cent oil/wax product.
Jojoba seeds are about 50 per cent oil/wax product. Contributed

"This year was a disaster but the last two years were quite good," he said.

"This year the flowers were all frosted."

Mrs Felton-Taylor said one of the perks of jojoba was its stability.

"It stores very well so if you know you are going to have a bad season you can keep selling it throughout the year," she said.

Jojoba is a desert plant, which appealed to the couple.

"That's one of the reasons we chose it. We can grow it without irrigation," Mrs Felton-Taylor said.

"Most jojoba is grown in dryer climates with irrigation.

"There are very few who grow it without irrigation."

Mrs Felton-Taylor said the jojoba product was more of a wax than an oil.

"It has a different chemical structure than most of the oils," she said.

"We try to get away from calling it an oil. We prefer to call it a wax ester. There aren't many waxes that are liquid at room temperature but this is one of them."

The Felton-Taylors clean all their seeds on-farm.

"We put it through three cleaning processes - we wash it through jets of water, then we dry it down to about 4percent moisture, then it's sent to a crutching plant in Cootamundra," Mr Felton-Taylor said.

"We get about 40-44 per cent. When you crush it it's cold-pressed. So from a tonne of seed we get about 400-450kg of product."

Mrs Felton-Taylor said they sold their product to wholesalers that make cosmetics with jojoba, as well as making their own products which they sell online and through markets.

"We could sell it all overseas but we prefer to supply the domestic market," she said.

"We sell to Asia and also to Europe but probably 90 per cent we sell on the domestic market.

"We value-add by making jojoba cosmetics. One of my daughters and myself make the cosmetics, which we market under Jojoba Natural."

Mr Felton-Taylor said there were only half-a-dozen or so jojoba growers in Australia.

The Felton-Taylors also have land they use for grazing.

"Our country isn't wheat-growing country, it's better for grazing then it is for growing cereals," Kim said.

"We have leased our grazing country but on average there would be about 300 head of backgrounding steers and heifers."

FAST FACT

Jojoba is a desert plant that produces a seed that can be turned into a wax. That wax can then be used in cosmetics and skincare.

Topics:  cosmetics jojoba natural jojoba plantation skincare wheat farmers