Changing of the Guard

FNQ Food Incubator
Changing of the Guard

Lara Wilde
: (07) 42 761 866
Chief Executive Officer
FNQ Food Incubator

The Food Manufacturing Hub and FNQ Food Incubator have been around for eight years and they have become an integral part of our local food manufacturing industry. After establishing three companies, cooking thousands of units of foods and beverages, mentoring hundreds of clients and supporting multiple industries, the power couple in the kitchen, Mick and Mary James, are stepping down and looking forward to retirement 2.0 with their family.

Mick and Mary came out of retirement in 2016 to establish the shared kitchen facilities in Bunda St and cook and bottle delicious bottles of chilli sauce to ship overseas. Mick had a history as a refrigeration and air conditioning engineer so his learning curve to become a food manufacturer was steep. With guidance and help from the food science team at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Mick quickly learnt how to cook, bottle and label thousands of bottles in an hour. With his new skillset under way Mick generously opened the doors to other passionate foodies.

The Food Manufacturing Hub was built to accommodate commercial scale production of wet condiments such as sauces, jams and chutneys. The equipment was set up to bottle 2500 units per hour but unlike any other co-packing facility in Australia there was no minimum order required.

Using his innovation and engineering talents, Mick adapted the kitchen to suit a proof of concept of a wide range of local products including kombucha, sesame snaps, popcorn, granola, jams, iced tea and sauces. He mentored a diverse range of clients from many cultures who all shared one passion, they wanted to feed their food to the world.

Mick’s generosity in supporting food entrepreneurs was acknowledged by the Queensland Government with a grant through the Department of Regional Development Manufacturing and Water to establish the FNQ Food Incubator and support more FNQ food businesses to scale up. One of those food businesses supported was Skybury Farms near Mareeba. Skybury used the funded support to develop a range of papaya jams, value adding to nearly two tonnes of second grade papayas that would otherwise be thrown out. Since then the FNQ Food Incubator has gone on to work with farmers from throughout Australia to value add to excess produce which might otherwise be thrown out or left in the paddock to rot. Moving forward, the FNQ Food Incubator will continue business as usual with Lara Wilde at the helm.

Mick and Mary developed close friendships with many of their clients over the years. Some of those clients were indigenous and the development of the First Nations food industry has been a cause close to their heart. Through Mick’s work with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Indigenous Native Food Development Program, the Food Manufacturing Hub is being positioned for new ownership, making it the first indigenous owned and led food manufacturing facility in Australia.

As Mick hands over the keys, Mary is busy making plans for their retirement spending time with family and travelling for new adventures.

* If you wish to send a farewell message to Mick and Mary or access support for your food business please email