A new farm has been established in the Bundaberg Region with the family behind Hillwood Berries expanding their Tasmanian venture into Avondale.
The business was started in Hillwood, Tasmania and supplies four types of berries to popular supermarket brand Driscoll's.
Hillwood Berries completed its first season at its new Bundaberg location from May to October this year with 1.5 hectares of blackberries and raspberries harvested.
Managing director Marcus Dornauf said Hillwood's interstate operations had expanded to the Avondale property in order to get the most out of the winter growing season.
“We were looking for a region to grow berries in the winter season to help manage our large labour numbers from our summer production here in Tasmania,” he said.
“Queensland was the best choice and we chose Bundaberg for a number of reasons with the main being a great climate to grow berries.”
Marcus said Hillwood Berries was originally established on the East Tamar River, 20 minutes drive from Launceston.
“We have been growing berries since 2010,” he said.
“We began growing only strawberries but have now transitioned to grow four berry types and have worked with Driscoll’s since the beginning.”
Marcus said the new Bundaberg farm grew three types of berries, with harvesting season beginning from May to October.
He said the planting season would kick off in January 2022.
“We will be predominately blackberries but will also have a small area of raspberries and strawberries,” he said.
“The Bundaberg site will have a staff requirement of around 60 to 70 workers in its peak with the off season needing about 20.
“We currently use over 400 workers in our Tasmanian peak and hope to be able to have similar numbers for Bundaberg in the not-too-distant future.”
Bundaberg berry farm choose to operate from AgTech Hub
To assist with the farm's administration operations, Marcus said Bundaberg Regional Council's new AgTech Hub would became their base.
The hub is a new facility that provides a home for developers and practitioners in a burgeoning regional agtech ecosystem that will see the region remain at the cutting edge of agricultural production in Australia.
The centre offers space for long-term leases where agtech contributors can network directly with Council, university research and development teams, natural resource management professionals and the private sector.
“We love the idea of the AgTech hub, we asked to see it and then almost signed up immediately,” Marcus said.
“It’s a fantastic facility, the layout is great and has all the necessities an office space needs without having to invest in those things ourselves.
“We plan to spend our time and money building our berry business so the AgTech seemed like a perfect place to house the office and admin side of the operation.
“We are new to the area so also felt it was a great way to meet other businesses in ag and horticulture that farm in the Bundaberg Region.”
Dornauf family's history with berries
Hillwood Berries is the passion of Robin and Karen Dornauf and their two sons, Simon and Marcus.
The Dornauf family have a long history with berries, dating back to 1985 when Robin planted the first raspberry canes at their Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm.
After establishing the raspberry farm, Robin left the berry industry to concentrate on his dairy businesses.
An opportunity to move his dairy business to an existing dairy factory in Hillwood in 2010 resulted in an unanticipated opportunity for Robin, and now his son Simon, to rekindle their passion for berries.
Robin and Simon developed the surrounding 40 hectares that came with the dairy factory into a new modern berry farm.
A few years later Robin’s second son Marcus returned from his studies in the USA to join the family venture and help further grow the business to its current 37 hectare size.
Their Bundaberg farm has become the next chapter in their journey.
Find out more about Hillwood Berries here.