Local seed germinates international trade

Duncan Heazlewood with white clover seed

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JANUARY 2016 | Joanne Eisemann

WALKING AROUND Heazlewood Seeds, you get the sense that they know what they are up to – from the sensitive renovation of the circa 1870 farm shed, now used as offices and reception area, to the construction of the ultra modern seed cleaning facility that will increase output by over a third this season.

It’s no wonder, the Whitemore business has been growing and selling seed since the 1930’s.

Duncan Heazlewood explains, “about 1980 dad and his brother and father put in the first small cleaning plant here; initially it was just to clean our own seed, then we started doing work for neighbouring farmers and as the seed industry has grown in Tasmania so have we.”

With reliable water supply, Whitemore is one of the best places in Australia for growing seed explains Duncan’s father, Brenton. He says most of the seed they clean, dry and export is grown within a fifty kilometre radius of their operation. From small beginnings the family business is now an international exporter working with major seed companies.

“We will clean anything, but the big products are ryegrass seed, that mostly goes all around Australia for the pasture market, dairy and beef pastures…clover seed, predominantly white clover seed, that’s mostly exported to countries like China, Europe and North America and carrot seed, that is all exported to Europe” says Duncan and adds, “The idea is to bring it up to the contract standards of purity and germination.”

After weighing, each paddock of seed delivered to the facility is stored in a separate silo to ensure traceability.

Weed seeds, straw and light seeds that won’t germinate are cleaned from the seed before it is either stored in huge boxes for drying or packed into to 25kg bags. Independent labs then test seed for purity of germination.

“It’s all certified seed, each crop is a particular variety developed by a seed company, they own that variety and it is unique from other varieties, explains Duncan.

Once all standards are passed, the seed is tagged, ensuring it can be tracked back to the grower from anywhere in the world.

All this requires meticulous record-keeping throughout the process.

One of the more unusual seeds they clean is buckwheat.

“By volume, buckwheat is quite a small thing for us. A Japanese flour miller came down here and did some work with the DPI about the possibility of growing buckwheat in Tasmania and we were approached to partner with him and that has continued.”

Timing is critical in the seed business; harvest starts in December and gets busy in the new year.

“For example, ryegrass will be harvested right through January and we will have it all processed by the end of April. It’s all got to be done to meet the autumn sales; autumn is a big selling period when people are sowing down new pasture.”

Slowly expanding over many years, this year Heazlewood has recently taken a leap constructing a huge new 45m x 32m x 9m shed to house two new seed cleaning machines imported from Denmark and a bag stacking machine imported from Holland.

“This will give us increased throughput at the peak period” says Duncan; he estimates production will increase by over a third.

“It’s been in the planning since this time last year; construction started in September, all our contractors know that we want to be able to put seed through here by Christmas time,” Duncan says of the rapid rate in which it’s been built.

All self-funded, Heazlewoods are not interested in looking for government assistance with their expansion plans preferring to do it themselves.

Mike Moores