Meet the Finalists - Berry Sensation
There are many inspirational entrepreneurs in Gippsland’s food & fibre sector, and Berry Sensation is one of them, with world leading technology being used to grow strawberries in the region.
Now in its 5th year of development, this wholly owned Australian business headed up by Barry Richards, is located at Shady Creek in the Baw Baw Shire.
They’ve taken a unique approach to growing strawberries in Australia, in glasshouses.
After identifying that product quality was a combination of the right variety, growing conditions, and that a glasshouse offered a more controlled and environmentally friendly option, they also recognised that Gippsland was the perfect climate location to achieve their goals.
With the right climate conditions, strawberries grown hydroponically require 80% less water than strawberries grown as traditional field crops.
Berry Sensation begun operations with the acquisition of 5,200 square metres of glasshouses near Warragul, in January 2015.
The existing structure was then modified to create what they consider to be the best strawberry growing facility in Australia. Planting commenced in February 2015, with the first fruit being harvested that April.
Barry and the team have invested significant time and money into finding the right varieties of strawberries suitable for glasshouse growing. After reviewing 13 varieties of strawberries, two were selected and the growing licences for them acquired from Japan.
These two varieties are believed to be sweeter and juicer than standard field grown varieties currently available in Australia.
Notably, since harvesting commenced, they have not missed a single week of production.
Berry Sensation is currently focussed on a major capital investment to increase their production of strawberries. This investment will enable the business to supply new contracts, with an impressive 70% of new production already committed.
Whilst they have attracted interest from overseas strawberry buyers, they remain focussed on growing their domestic market share.
The new facility, when fully operational in the next 12-14 months, will provide jobs for upwards of 120 full time employees.
Strawberry growing and farming in Australia is very fragmented and traditional, but this new approach by Berry Sensation will present the market with a new premium variety that will compete quality.
The branding strategy will be to use the business name as the primary brand with the variety as a secondary brand.
They aim to re-educate consumers who currently buy on business brand only.
Even when in full production, they will only grow approximately 2% of the strawberry market which positions them very well for the premium end of the market.
Their novel growing method is leading the way with introducing new varieties with improved quality and a unique branding strategy to educate the public about the origins of the fruit they are buying, and the environmental benefits of farming strawberries in glasshouses
This is world leading technology being used in Gippsland that is producing exceptional quality, tasty, juicy strawberries that are growing in popularity across the region and beyond.
Berry Sensation has certainly demonstrated an impressive commitment and passion to challenge tradition and be innovative.
This has been recognised in the business securing a spot in the finalist list for two categories in this year’s Excellence in Agribusiness Awards; the Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Commonwealth Bank and Excellence in Innovation sponsored by National Australia Bank.