Broccoli in miniature turns judges' heads

LOVE OF FOOD: Elle Astrup is a finalist in the Outstanding Start Up category of Business NSW's 2021 awards. Photo: Vivienne Pearson.

LOVE OF FOOD: Elle Astrup is a finalist in the Outstanding Start Up category of Business NSW's 2021 awards. Photo: Vivienne Pearson.

BEING a finalist in the Outstanding Start Up category of Business NSW's 2021 awards has buoyed a new business owner's optimism in challenging times.

Elle Astrup, CEO and founder of Foods That Love You Back, is enjoying the recognition. "It's really heart-warming to be a finalist," she says. "Getting recognition that what I am doing is important is really great."

Foods That Love You Back grows and sells microgreens, which are nutrient-rich baby plants, harvested after seven to 10 days of growth.

Currently, Elle grows broccoli, red clover, wheatgrass and sunflower microgreens at her home and plans to expand her operations at The Farm in Ewingsdale.

"I've partnered with a Sydney firm called InvertiGro who are developing new ag-tech that uses very little energy," says Elle. "With a system the size of two big fridges next to each, I can grow 80 kilograms a week using half the energy of a small air conditioning unit."

Sustainability is crucial to Elle's business models. "We're doing everything we can to lessen our footprint," she says of her microgreens, which are grown on hemp matting, packaged in biodegradable paper punnets, and sold in IGAs and health food stores.

The Business NSW awards recognise and celebrate business excellence.

Other businesses shortlisted in the Outstanding Start Up category of the Northern Rivers Regional awards including Alstonville-based New Directions Online Realty, Byron-based Mazzer Photography, and two Casino businesses; McAuliffe School of Dance and Hanging Rock Flowers.

Award categories include Tourism and Visitor Experience, Retail and Personal Services, Outstanding Employee, Outstanding Young Business Leader, Excellence in Small Business, Excellence in Sustainability, and Employer of Choice.

The awards also celebrate outstanding community organisations, with the Byron Community Centre, Friends of the Koala, Rotary Club of Ballina-on-Richmond, Northern Rivers Animal Services, Casino Returned Servicemen's Memorial Club and Santos Organics among those shortlisted.

Elle agrees with Business NSW that entering the awards can be a rewarding experience, particularly after such a challenging start.

"I launched the business in mid-2020, which was such a difficult time as a lot of restaurants and chefs were very positive and wanted to work with me but then everything shut down," says Elle. "Lots of great things are happening despite the challenges we've had."

Award winners will be announced at a presentation evening on 23 October and then become finalists in the State Business Awards, judged in late November.