Working alongside his father and brother Adam Robertson learnt how to grow flowers in Tasmania and has now forged a successful commercial business venture with his wife Trish.
After marrying, Adam and Trish chose to live in Bundaberg and established Robertson Flower Farm 14 years ago.
Adam felt Bundaberg had an ideal climate for winter flower production with dry, stable weather and the fertile volcanic red soil was similar to Tasmanian soils. Despite this it was a big adjustment for Adam coming from the ‘Apple Isle! At first he found it hard going and said, “To be honest when we were notified we were starting the water year on 0% allocation, which coincided with the middle of our production we wondered if we had done the right thing and almost threw it all in and went back to Tasmania”!
Fortunately we were allocated to use 10% water and it all settled down from there. Robertson Flower Farm now grow three different flower ranges – which include both perfumed and non-perfumed Oriental and Asiatic Lillies which are second only to roses in popularity – Gladioli’s of all colour and varieties and more recently ever popular Sunflowers. The bulbs for the Lillies and the Gladioli are sourced and ordered from Holland each year and arrive by sea freight in February. Stored at zero degrees they are planted weekly from March until September.
The bulb crops are imported under Australian quarantine regulations which means they have to be grown to a strict set of guidelines including crop hygiene. Regular inspections take place to ensure quality control and to make sure the plants are healthy.
Now into their second growing season the Robertson’s newest crop is ornamental sunflowers. As Bundaberg is almost frost free in winter the aim is to be one of the major suppliers of sunflowers when southern suppliers cannot produce them. Their ‘sunnies’ are sold under the brand ‘winterSun.net.au’. Many are also finding their way into the Coles and Woolworths supermarkets bunched flower range.
“Crop flowers are not that easy to grow in that they have to be perfect without a single blemish and being exposed to a range of weather events can make it interesting from a growers’ perspective”, reported Adam. “Currently we supply the flowers markets in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide and also local florists. We ensure the general public have access to our flowers as well so every Friday we open a road side stall for them.
We have now started to apply compost with a custom made bed-former to provide better nutrition as well as to improve the soil. The John Deere 6150R Tractor from the Vanderfield Bundaberg branch handles the weight of the machine quite well and is involved with all our ground preparation work. Another advantage is I can cover two rows in one pass so that’s a plus. Our other John Deere Tractor the 5820 model handles the lighter jobs on the farm”.
Adam is very impressed with the John Deere Greenstar Guidance System in the 6150R. “It’s much easier to use and it loads up quicker than the previous technology we were operating with. There’s no sitting around waiting for it. Having the Vanderfield base station on The Hummock (the only hill in Bundaberg) is beneficial too.
While I concentrate on all aspects of the field work and the growing of the flowers Trish supervises the packing shed staff and looks after our marketing”.
Flowers brought this couple together and now their business ‘Robertson Flower Farms’ is blooming. Thanks to their perseverance, optimism and their belief in their ability to successfully grow flowers in a subtropical location.
Open every Friday during the picking season, their road side stall can be found at 451 Bargara Road Bundaberg.