Hussey & Co | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2020
Baby leaf vegetables are a notoriously difficult crop — highly perishable with a short shelf life, consistent supply of quality product depends on favourable growing conditions and a business ethos that encourages and rewards innovation.
Managing Director Jeremy Haw recognised the imperative to value add and to harness the power technology could provide in terms of business and efficiency improvements. But he also understood that investing in innovation is not enough — without the right people to manage systems and develop the required practices and processes, technology counts for nothing.
Hussey & Co sells single line and leaf mix products into wholesale, retail and export markets. A move towards ready-to-eat (RTE) was the impetus for significant change including production and processing location diversification and substantial investment in new technologies.
Built on a solid understanding of the science that forms the foundation of its business, Hussey & Co has invested heavily in development of technology that addresses the specific requirements of local growing conditions and that delivers on the company’s desire to remain at the forefront of horticulture innovation.
A highly perishable product calls for superior control over three key elements: ‘cold’, ‘clean’ and ‘dry’, making this a logical research starting point when assessing how technology could deliver enhanced outcomes. The Hussey & Co team looked overseas for inspiration, found solutions that would solve the problem and redesigned them to address the specific needs of its own application.
Where many drying methods feature centrifuge technology, the company developed an air drying tunnel that performs complete water removal when processing large volumes of product — a result Jeremy said is an industry game changer and the new benchmark. Field crops are susceptible to insects and foreign objects, so Hussey & Co invested in optical sorting technology that picks up chlorophyll in the leaves during processing, quickly identifies non-leaf matter and automatically ejects it during processing, aiding in provision of a truly consistent RTE product.
Jeremy said that five years ago these problems were virtually impossible to manage, making the application of technology an absolute game changer. His ethos is to invest in the best that you can buy — from the land to grow the produce, the technology used to manage farm programs like crop care and soil maintenance, processes used to improve efficiencies and the staff required to manage existing systems and develop new innovations.
Hussey & Co’s investment has paid off, with the company awarded the 2019 Excellence in Innovation Award – Food & Fibre Gippsland Excellence in Agribusiness Awards. Jeremy was also recognised as Victoria’s vegetable Grower of the Year at the 2019 AUSVEG VIC awards and singled out as “running the most consistent salad operation in the country” — a solid substantiation of the company’s mission