Rural Problem Solving
BY KERRY ANDERSON
A COMMON attribute of an entrepreneur is their desire to find a solution to a problem. Another is that they quite often don’t fit into the school system.
With this in mind, it was no surprise that Travis Howard of Cohuna used to be easily distracted at school. “All I could think about was farming,” he admits.
When the family dairy farm was sold in 2006 Travis contracted his skills out and kept his eyes open for opportunities.
An idea was presented to him by Cr. Goulding in 2009 when the Ganawarra Shire was trying to decide how to dispose of its green waste collection. As a result of that initial conversation, Travis started a unique business that was beneficial for the Shire, the environment, and for farmers.
Travis started buying the green waste off the Gannawarra Shire and relocating it to dairy farms that require bedding for their cows prone to mastitis and other conditions inflamed by lying on the wet ground.
A big tick for the shire and an even bigger tick for the dairy industry.
After a period of time Travis then collects the further enriched waste and composts it in wind-rows over a six month period before sifting it into a format that is suitable for
vegetable gardens, lawns, and pasture enhancement.
Another big tick for his customers.
A field day sparked the original idea and You Tube and the internet provided the rest of the knowledge that Travis needed to get his business started.
“I love experimenting and seeing things grow,” says Travis and this has clearly resulted in a win-win for everyone concerned.
He needed help to get started and pays credit to his father for being a great business mentor. The farming community has also got behind him. John Keely and other local farmers have allowed him to make use of their land to process the compost. Travis continues to move his enterprise around the Cohuna district utilizing land too salty for the farmers to use. In return for the use of the land he spreads compost and improves the soil so that eventually the paddocks again become usable to the farmers.
In what is proving to be a profitable business Travis started off processing 80 tonnes of waste on the ground and four years later was up to 2,500 tonnes annually. Seven years on and he is processing around 4,000 tonnes and employs another local person three days a week.
As both Travis and his employee have young families, it suits them both to work part time allowing them the flexibility to share child care responsibilities with their partners.
“Having someone working with me has taken the pressure off,” says Travis but admits that taking the step from working solo to being an employer was a major one.
“I never realized that there was so much paperwork with super and tax.” His accountant was duly enlisted to help set up that side of the business.
And don’t think that Travis has finished yet. As his domestic market has grown significantly in recent years he has started buying green waste from a neighbouring shire and is currently looking for a retail site with suitable road frontage.
Watch this space!
KERRY ANDERSON: A businesswoman, philanthropist and community advocate from Central Victoria, Kerry Anderson is passionate about rural and regional Australia. She works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE
MEET KERRY IN PERSON: During August Kerry is sharing her knowledge on entrepreneurship as part of the Small Business Festival in Melbourne (8 Aug), Geelong (19 Aug) and Bendigo (31 Aug). READ MORE