Flower power

November 24, 2016

Bird’s-eye view: This photograph of the new Avonlea Flowers farm was taken by a drone, which grower Dave Weidenbach is trialling to monitor the giant new facility on Murchison-Mooroopna Rd.

Business growth: Avonlea Flowers owner David Weidenbach sees a good future ahead.

It’s not an airport or the work of an abstract landscape artist, but it is a factory — a flower factory.

In a bold move that signals big business confidence in the Shepparton region, a Murchison flower grower has nearly doubled the size of his farm with 141 new greenhouses in production.

Avonlea Flowers owner David Weidenbach said it had taken two years to construct the new plastic houses which will increase the established farm’s flower production by 80 per cent.

Mr Weidenbach said the operation would create 15 new jobs for experienced planters and pickers.

He said now was a good time to invest in the flower industry.

‘‘The dollar has come down a bit, which has made imports a bit more expensive. We’re capitalising on that — we’re optimistic about the industry,’’ he said.

‘‘A few years ago we were growing about five lines of flowers, now we’re growing about 40.’’

The 50m-long greenhouses will produce lisianthus, gypsophila — known as baby’s breath — and a mix of other popular summer flowers.

Avonlea Flowers supplies major flower outlets including supermarkets, with varieties sent to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Mr Weidenbach said his multi-million-dollar expansion plans included the importation of a purpose-built $750000 flower grader from Holland.

The growth of his farm from 40km of flower beds to more than 80km means he is now experimenting with a drone to monitor crop quality and storm damage.

‘‘Up until four years ago I used to walk every single bed every day — now that’s impossible,’’ he said.

He said the drone proved its worth after a storm passed over last week.

‘‘As soon as the storm had passed I sent the drone up and it picked up bits of damage that I never could,’’ he said.

Mr Weidenbach said that at 110000sqm, Avonlea Flowers was the largest undercover cut-flower operation in Australia.

‘‘A lot of smaller growers have disappeared — they get squeezed out,’’ he said.

‘‘But it’s a good business to be in. We’ve spent a lot of money on capital improvements, packing sheds, transport and running costs and efficiencies.’’

A father of five and grandfather of three, Mr Weidenbach said he had confidence in the future.

Four of his children help run the Murchison farm.

‘‘It’s good for the town — it’s brought our kids back to town.

‘‘It’s got a future. we’re very optimistic about the industry.’’

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