Our vision is to create a highly productive, profitable and ecologically sound farming operation that champions small to medium modern farms, to produce the best quality products for the sake of our animals, our soils and our consumers, and to create jobs through farming innovation in regional areas.
So goes the official vision statement above. Here's how we got there.
For those of you who've met us personally, you'd know that we don't like to do things by halves! You may also know that we ventured into farming following our desire to source nutritionally dense food on a path for optimal human health. These two things have always gone hand in hand. Across a decade or more of entrepreneurial ventures, we've pushed ourselves hard and yet (mostly) maintained our energy, drive, physical and mental health by prioritising a healthy diet and good quality food.
Trouble is, good quality food isn't always readily available. It isn't always affordable. It isn't always convenient.
For many years throughout our journey together we committed every waking minute and every dollar to our business ventures. The entertainment budget consisted of a gym membership and a day at the local produce markets, where we would source bulk quantities of grass-fed beef direct from the farmer at a bargain price that tasted better, was better for you and due to using every single cut of the beast in a quarter or side, was far cheaper than the supermarket.
(Funny story, these farmers were John and Wendy of Barrabarroo Farm Fresh Meats and River Cottage Australia fame. Four years after we met them, we bought their farm and are now producing pastured chicken from the top of the hill in Quaama!)
Good food, we believe, has been the backbone of what's maintained what turned out to be a fast-paced high-stress lifestyle.
And products of such integrity in our convenience-driven world ought to be easier to find, and wherever possible, easier to afford.
So when we began farming we looked heavily at economies of scale, and how this can be achieved using pastured systems that are often high in labour costs, slower grown, higher in feed costs, and at times inefficient - all of which produce a delicious, high-welfare product that is a lot more expensive than its industrial counterparts (although there really is no comparison).
Now they say you have to learn to walk before you can run, but we didn't walk for long before we took off at full-speed.
At the height of our egg-layer business, three years after starting out with our first 500 hens, we'd reached 10,000 layer hens across multiple flocks at no more than 300 hens per hectare in a pastured system with our A-frame style mobile sheds moved weekly. We distributed rich, nutrient dense eggs all up and down the Eastern Seaboard with the same quality and animal welfare outcomes as our maiden flock of 500 hens, but with 20 times the impact on our food system and our environment.
We would often game scenarios of how we could grow the system 10-fold without compromise to the integrity of the product. What would it take? How could it become more efficient? Could it be achieved without eye-watering levels of capital investment?
A few short months after our first little farmer was born, we were awarded a Regional Jobs and Investment Package grant through AusIndustry to expand, diversify and create value-add products for our business, creating an additional 5 jobs in the region. Throughout this project, a few things became apparent. One - that there was a huge demand for regular production of pastured meat chickens all over the country and two - current mobile abattoirs would restrict the volume of processing to a level that would not near come close to the demand for the product and could not support the opportunity available.
So we began to innovate.
And the result is a first-of-its-kind mechanised mobile abattoir that has the capacity to process high volumes of a variety of poultry species. Not micro, not quite industrial level, but somewhere in the middle.
The lack of abattoirs for processing poultry (or any meat) is a huge threat in the supply chain. Small producers are being pushed out, costs are driven up and threats, such as pandemics(!), are impacting supply and demand which has flow-on affects for the agriculture industry as well as the consumer.
It's a really long way of saying that at the core of our vision is scale. How do we regenerate more land? How do we produce more pastured chicken? How do we become more efficient? How do we have a more meaningful impact on our food system, our environment and on human health?
Which lead to the next question:
With all of the constraints of a mobile abattoir, such as size, power, water, space... how were we going to achieve our vision?
Constraint drives creativity. Good food drives us.
What drives you?