Regional businesses defy isolation and go online to sell freeze-dried flower petals and crowdfunded ethical meat
As seen on ABC Rural News, December 6 2016
From edible flower petals to crowdfunding ethical meat for city consumers, regional businesses are making the most of opportunities offered by online marketing and selling.
Sarah Sammon began her dried rose petal business in her mother Jan Slater’s kitchen 12 years ago at Swan Hill.
From packaging shrivelled air-dried potpourri to now being the largest rose petal farm in the southern hemisphere, the secret to Simply Rose Petals’ success has been online sales, freeze drying and a dash of determination.
Over that time, the pair have grown the business from 1,000 to 6,000 rose plants, 10 edible flower varieties, and commercial freeze driers.
“Freeze drying means we can send anywhere in the world, without refrigerated freight, and that really revolutionised our business,” Ms Sammon said.
“When we started in 2004 we were growing cut flowers, but within six months we changed over to drying, because the cut flowers were a nightmare.
“We had a disease in the water, and the flowers would wilt within a few hours.
“Our new venture is ‘blooming food’, the world’s first edible flower farm.”
Ms Sammon said the farm had 20 different edible flowers, ranging from roses to dianthus to snap dragons and cornflower.
“The flower petals are mainly used for garnishing cocktails and decorating cakes, and they’re a beautiful way for cafes to set themselves apart from the very next cafe,” she said.
“Back in 2004 we went straight online. We’re trying to reach a global market, and there really aren’t enough weddings in Swan Hill to sustain us in sales of rose petals.”
Simply Rose Petals now exports to 15 countries with a shelf-stable product that can last up to two years.
It was one of 10 regional online businesses selected by the Regional Australia Institute (RAI) and Google to be mentored in online marketing.
AGDATA named regional online business winner
Google and RAI named AGDATA the Regional Online Hero for 2016.
AGDATA has 35 years of experience delivering a farm finance and management package called Phoenix.
Based in Toowoomba and owned by the Skerman family, it now employs more than 20 people locally, and has ways of dealing with poor internet service, called the “data drought” in the bush.
“The Phoenix software has been around for some time, and we’ve gone through the good times and bad times just like the farmers,” Stephen Dummett, AGDATA’s chief marketing officer, said.
“Even today we have to look after the people who don’t have internet, so we have a cloud solution and a desktop solution, and we can’t see the end of that at the moment until the internet is more freely available around the bush.”
Crowdfunding ethical meat
Zachery Sequoia was Melbourne-based when he sought a sea change and landed on the NSW South Coast, at picturesque Pambula.
With business partner Dan Tarasenko, they searched around for a product to market through online sales, and started Crowd Carnivore in February.
Mr Sequoia described Crowd Carnivore as a platform that allowed city-based users to form buying groups to buy whole animals off a producer.
The producer gets a premium for their animal, and the consumer gets the product they want without the mark-ups by retailers.
So what would be the key lesson he can share?
“That meat is a terrible business to get into as a tech-entrepreneur,” Mr Sequoia laughed wryly.
“Meat is one of most highly-regulated and highly-perishable products to sell directly to a consumer.”
Mr Sequoia and his partner visit the farm to check the cattle are raised on pasture in low stock density, with no hormones and no antibiotics.
The Regional Online Heroes workshop is only two years old, and this year attracted other businesses such as:
- Blackbooks Tea from Australian-grown leaves
- Corporeal Health providing health and rehab-fitness services to remote towns
- George the Farmer of Penola South Australia, with children’s books and digital educational material about agriculture
- Local Farm Produce, which is an online directory helping Australian farmers promote their food direct to the public.