Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Business File

Sustainable economic success

By Karen Smith

For more than 60 years Benara Nurseries in Western Australia has ticked many boxes to become one of Australia’s most successful production nurseries. With a commitment to sustainability, quality services, and their team, what contributes to their longevity and economic success?

What do we look for in staff? – Passion! Whether for plants or just life in general, although it helps a lot if there is an inherent interest in plants – these people just ‘get’ what we do every day”, said Carole.

Advanced trees cater to larger retailers and the landscape market
Advanced trees cater to larger retailers and the landscape market

Obviously, all jobs are different and require different skills but there are a few standout qualities they look for. Aside from passion, honesty, integrity and good communication skills are basic qualities that work for customers, suppliers and interacting with co-workers, added Carole.

All staff are trained on the job, regardless of experience or qualifications. However, they do work closely with TAFE, and their apprentices attend their horticultural courses on-site each week. They actively welcome and encourage professional development across all sectors of the business.

The seedling nursery is modern and automated, using soil pasteurisation, germination chambers, roller benches, robotic planting machines and boom watering to produce a diverse range of annual and vegetable seedlings. Benara grows a broad range of plants, and they cater for all planting needs from re-forestation seedlings, annuals, shrubs, and trees, including advanced trees and plants. They grow many orders for larger projects to meet contract deadlines, and have a comprehensive forward-ordering system to enable customers to reserve stock to meet planting schedules.

Plants are grown in a variety of sizes to suit all markets
Plants are grown in a variety of sizes to suit all markets

The revegetation nursery produces tubestock for revegetation and landscaping projects suitable for environments such as for coastal areas, wetland and river restoration, coastal plain woodlands, Perth hills, pine forest post-harvest rehabilitation, mine site restoration and reclaimed farmland. They grow smaller, provenance-specific revegetation stock through to large-scale contracts.

To meet the AS2303 Landscape Tree Stock quality standards, they have staff dedicated to looking after all aspects of their advanced tree production.

Using their own large fleet of trucks and a purpose-built tree loader, they can deliver advanced trees to the site without too much handling, thus avoiding any scarring or damage.

With a solid distribution network Australia-wide, plants are shipped weekly to all major cities. I asked Carole about the logistics of shipping plants interstate.

Indoor plants grown under cover
Indoor plants grown under cover

“Each state has their own requirements” Carole said, “We have special permits enabling us to ship stock out of Western Australia (WA).” Carole explained they ship a large cross section of plants, such as palms, shrubs, advanced plants and trees, and a variety of indoor plants, as well as WA natives to various customers including bigger retailers and the landscape market.

“We have been moving stock around the county for over thirty years, so have a good idea of what travels well or if the plant has special requirements such as watering, for example.”

Benara uses road and rail to transport plants in temperature-controlled containers or trucks, for which they can nominate an optimum temperature during warmer weather. Lighting is not necessary for short journeys, and they try to minimise the time spent in transit to no more than four or five days.

A diverse range of annual and vegetable seedlings
A diverse range of annual and vegetable seedlings

Benara Nurseries are committed to making a positive impact on the environment, with a focus on ethical business practices and community engagement. This dedication drives their daily decisions and ensures they fulfil their moral responsibility to give back to society. Having attained EcoHort accreditation for adhering to the highest environmental standards in their operations, the nursery remains dedicated to sustainability.

One of their key environmental initiatives involves water management, which includes the use of rain and temperature sensors to optimise water usage. They also prioritise recycling, waste management, rainwater harvesting, and renewable energy sources to reduce their environmental footprint and minimise resource consumption.

Computer-controlled systems monitor and time irrigation, ensuring efficient watering practices. Drip irrigation provides advanced trees with adequate water while minimising losses.

Polypropylene (PP5), a 100% recyclable material is used for their pots and labels, and they salvage and sterilise propagation and commercial vegetable trays for reuse, and also recycle paper and cardboard through dedicated bins. Plastic batch signs and nursery signage are also salvaged and recycled through their production systems.

The business has grown to 250 acres under production
The business has grown to 250 acres under production

Benara operates two trade marts, conveniently located North and South of the Swan River. These are a one-stop shop for landscapers and retailers to not only choose their own plants for projects, but also pots and fertilisers as needed.

A weekly electronic availability list, tailored to different client bases, is produced, as well as a colourful seasonal inspiration catalogue focusing on key lines for the coming season.

Overall, Benara Nurseries demonstrates a strong commitment to environmental stewardship through various sustainable practices in their day-to-day operations. From water management and recycling initiatives to energy-efficient technologies and optimised transport logistics, they are dedicated to minimising their environmental impact while contributing positively to their community and the wider world.

All images supplied by Benara Nurseries

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