MORE THAN JUST A GREEN THUMB REQUIRED IN TODAY’S AGRICULTURE SECTOR
Taking the hard work and enthusiasm of his father Mario as a lead, Michael Vorrasi is one to watch in the local fresh produce sector.
A second generation grower of gourmet lettuce, salad mix and Asian vegetables, Mr Vorassi is managing director of DSA Fresh and this year’s winner of the AUSVEG National Young Grower of the Year title.
Supplying Coles, independent supermarkets and the hospitality sector, the company is based at Direk in SA’s productive market garden territory.
DSA Fresh employs up to 30 people and Mr Vorassi explains why the business moved from field to hydroponic production about 20 years ago.
“My father made that decision in response to consumer demands and general industry trends,’’ Mr Vorassi said.
“Hydroponics is a way of growing plants using nutrient solutions, in water without soil, so the end result is a lot cleaner, which consumers like. We can also grow year round and quality is consistent.
“In the past 10 years we’ve really expanded and our focus in on processing and value adding with different combinations and salad mixes.’’
Technology has played a big part in this recent growth and increasingly consistent yield quality.
But it’s been a step by step approach, he said.
“There are regular developments and changes to keep up with. But we now use computers to monitor all the growth conditions - everything from the feeding of nutrients, to temperature. It takes some of the guess work out and does improve output and one of the major benefits is that we can set the levels that we want things at.
“We have different machines for packaging and I’d say that new technologies have helped increase our output by 50 per cent in the past five years.
“We keep up to date with what’s available to help our operation and our biggest focus is on our customers and we regularly test new products – in fact we have three or four new products on trial at the moment.’’
As Young Grower of the Year, 2012, Michael has been acknowledged for eight years of full-time dedication to his family’s business.
“There is a great deal of satisfaction working in the industry. I love seeing our product on the shelf knowing that it’s healthy and beneficial to the customer.
“Getting the award was a great sense of achievement. It was also a proud moment for my father who has been a major part of my development and it felt like recognition for him as well.”
Michael said some of the challenges facing Australian vegetable growers include a lack of young growers coming into the industry and the continual increase of input cost with the same or lower returns.