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TAS Country : July 7th 2011
14 Friday, Ju Farm Feature Hills Transplants WIDE OPEN SPACES: Seedlings grow at Hills Transplants at Devonport. The company specialises in growing seedlings of all types for farmers throughout the state. Some of farming's latest innovations were on display recently, writes KAROLIN MacGREGOR Farmers get smart s CONTRACTORS from across the state got a close look at some of Tasmania's most innovative businesses this week. About 30 members of Agricultural Contractors of Tasmania took part in the group's annual bus tour on Monday. This year, the focus was on the north-west region where the group visited four major businesses -- Veolia, Dulverton Organics, Hills Transplants and Harvest Moon. The day kicked of with a tour at the Veolia factory at Spreyton where contractors got a first-hand look at the company's recycling business. Plans by the company to set up a system to recycle silage wrap through- out the state are well advanced. Contractor group chairman, Doug French said the business was particu- larly excited about the prospect of getting a silage wrap recycling system in place. ''We think it's a very good idea because a lot of silage wrap is used here and it's very difficult for farmers to get rid of,'' he said. ''A lot of farmers either take it to the tip or burn it and it's a real waste.'' The group then visited the Dulver- ton Organics facility to see how the company's green waste and compost- ing operations work. After a quick lunch break at La- trobe, the next stop on the tour was the Hill family's business Hill Transplants which is located on the outskirts of Devonport. There, during the past 50 years, the family has developed a highly special- ised and innovative business growing seedlings of all types for many cus- tomers including farmers around the state. Steve Hill gave the contractors a personal tour of the family's facilities. Mr Hill said the business started as a market garden and soon hydroponic systems were developed to grow let- tuces and celery. He said his father noticed some farmers around the district were ex- perimenting by planting seedlings rat- her than seeds and were bringing the seedlings from a nursery in NSW. Recognising a potential market, the family offered their services to farmers and started producing the required seedlings. From there, the business has grown into a highly-specialised operation with a umber of custom-built systems to increase efficiency. The Hills have been involved in helping establish some of Tasmania's most important industries including pyrethrum and they have produced boronia seedlings for the essential oils industry. During the past decade, the family has also diversified the business and were producing millions of tube stock annually for the state's plantation forestry companies. Mr Hill told contractors that all the growing mixes for the seedlings were made on site using a unique machine. The seedlings were then put through an automated seed tray filling system. A number of different planting machines are used to put seeds into the seedling trays, depending on the size and shape of the seed. These include a vacuum drum seeder which can seed about 1500 trays an hour with almost 100 per cent accuracy. After being filled, the trays are placed in a germination room which is heated to 21C. Then after a day or two, the trays are placed inside large outdoor nurseries. The growing is divided into rows and an automatic watering system is in place. Mr Hill said because many of his customers now needed to have seed- lings treated with fungicides or insecti- cides before they left the nursery, he had also developed an automatic spraying system which meant staff did not have to deal with sprays. ''This is a custom-made system -- there's nothing else like this around,'' he said. After being treated, the trays are shrink-wrapped prior to being trans- ported. The family grows a large range of seedlings for vegetables, flowers and trees. They supply seedlings to commer- cial growers, farmers and companies throughout the state. During the peak summer production period, Mr Hill said they would nor- mally have about 40 employees on site. Hygiene is a vital part of the Hills' operations and all seedling trays that are used are either new or must be sterilised in a steamroom for a mini- mum of 16 hours at about 75C. The family has a large on-site glasshouse (a Dutch-designed struc- ture) where eucalypt seedlings were once grown. Mr Hill said at peak production the glasshouse would hold about eight million seedlings. Unfortunately the downturn in the forestry industry has seen the demand for eucalypt seedlings fall so the family has gone from producing about 22 million seedlings a year in 2008 to
June 30th 2011
July 14th 2011