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TAS Country : February 17th 2011
14 Friday, Febru FROM LITTLE THINGS: Big silos grow to march down Heazlewood Lane, Whit Seeds of a clean sw QUALITY: Duncan Heazlewood keeps as eye on the process. The Heazlewood family started seed cleaning more than three decades ago with no inkling they were on the way to becoming Tasmania's biggest privately owned seed cleaning business. land THIS Karolin MacGregor WHAT started out as just one small cleaning machine located in a shed on the family's Melton Park property near Whitemore has developed into a large and highly specialised business. Brenton and Anne Heazlewood and their son Duncan run Heazlewood Seeds, and with harvest well under way, this is one of their busiest times of year. Duncan said when they bought their first seed-cleaning machine 31 years ago, they had no intention of turning it into a business. ''We bought a little cleaner and put it in a shed and we were just going to clean our own seed for our own use,'' he said ''When we first put it in Dad made the comment that we'd never have a semi-trailer in there.'' Now, however, semi-trailers are a regular sight at the factory dropping off seed to be cleaned. In those early days there were few seed producers in Tasmania and most of the state's ryegrass seed was imported from New Zealand. ''Back then in the '80s when we put our first cleaner in, there were probably only half a dozen commercial seed growers in the state,'' he said. ''If we did 10 tonnes of the one line, that was a big line back then. ''I remember the first day we cleaned 100 tonnes, we thought that was pretty good, now we can get 100 tonnes of seed in one line.'' Mr Heazlewood said the introduction of plant breeding rights saw many of the seed companies expand their growing area, and Tasmania, because of its reliable rainfall and mild climate, became the ideal location. ''Since we started, the industry has changed quite a bit,'' he said. ''The production area has expanded and the yields have gone up over the years.'' When they began seed-cleaning, perennial ryegrass made up the bulk of the cleaning work, but as cropping has expanded and more farmers have diversified, annual ryegrass is now the main seed they deal with. Getting good quality and clean seed can be quite difficult and requires a certain amount of skill and experience. Over the years, the Heazlewoods have specialised in cleaning niche seed lines, including a large range of vegetable seed such as onions, carrot, silverbeet, pak choy and brassicas. They also clean a number of grass and clover varieties and some cereals, including canola. ''It's a highly capital-intensive business because you need a lot of different equipment,'' Mr Heazlewood said. ''There is a bit of an art to it, especially because we clean quite a few different types of seed -- you have to know your equipment and how to set it up properly.'' As their business has grown the cleaning factory has also expanded in size. Now they have three large seed- cleaning machines in purpose-built sheds. There are 86 silos on site to store seed for cleaning and seed that has been cleaned. Most of the clean seed is packaged into 25kg bags, placed on pallets and wrapped ready for transport. A huge shed on the site is used to store bagged seed. Drying seed is also an important part of the business. Mr Heazlewood said in a season like this year, when there has been plenty of rain, farmers were often forced to harvest seed crops during small breaks in the weather. ''We've done a lot of drying this year,'' he said. ''You can't blame people for wanting to get crops off as soon as they can.'' The Heazlewoods have three drying machines that they use to reduce the moisture levels in seed crops down to the required levels for storage. ''Most of the grass seed we dry down to 12 per cent, or it will heat and it won't run through the cleaners properly,'' he said. ''Some of the vegetable seed we dry down even further to about 8 per cent.'' Mr Heazlewood said the amount of contaminant material in seed crops varied from year to year. To separate the quality seed from stubble and other weed seeds, the Heazlewoods' machines can be fitted with a large range of different screens Feature Farm Heazlewood Seeds
February 10th 2011
February 24th 2011