By JOHN HALL
A COMPANY in Cambridge is producing innovative pharmaceutical and skin-care products from seaweed. And 25km away, on the Brighton Industrial Estate, there’s a bloke who’s building a successful business out of recycling the waste from the seaweed extraction process.
Steven Gavalas doesn’t want anything to go to waste – especially not the seaweed that’s been through the wringer at Marinova, the bio-tech company developing world-standard medical and nutritional applications.
Marinova’s extraction process was creating a small mountain unwanted seaweed waste. And Steve knew exactly what to do with it.
In a no-cost arrangement with Marinova, Steve’s company Horticultural and Landscape Supplies (HALS) is processing the waste seaweed into nutrient-rich potting mix, fertilisers and soil conditioners.
“It’s the perfect win-win situation for both companies,” said Steve. “This is a first between two such companies in Australia.”
His seaweed product is called SeaGreens and is certified for use in organic fruit and vegetable growing. The liquid form is now being used on vineyards in Tasmania and Victoria … and the word is spreading.
“The response from agricultural and horticultural industries has been fantastic,” said Steve. “Our marine based liquid fertilisers and soil conditioners are processed on-site from sustainable wild-harvested Tasmanian seaweeds, so it’s all natural and full of nutrients. And it’s eco-friendly.”
Steve’s company Horticultural and Landscape Supplies occupies four hectares of Brighton Industrial Estate and was one of the first two businesses to be established there. Initially there were some issues with dust from the industrial equipment on the site – screeners, chippers and loaders.
“Until we had neighbours (other businesses), there were sheep around the site and they didn’t complain,” said Steve, with a hint of a smile. “But there was a problem and we solved it with 3m high soil retaining walls and we also have trees growing on the perimeter. So now the other businesses around us on the estate seem to be relaxed about our processing.”
It’s a multi-faceted business – wholesaling, landscape trade and nursery supplies, and mixing and bagging compost, soils, sand, potting mix and nutrients. More recently, greenwaste processing has introduced a new group of clientele happy with the easy access that the Brighton Industrial Estate has to offer.
“We create some beautiful mixes, unique and not harmful to the environment,” Steve said. “It’s busy right now in spring. Each day we are producing 2000 bags of quality-assured potting mixtures in mostly 25 and 30 litre bags.”
He has a workforce of 16 to 20, depending on the season. Many live in Brighton municipality “and are excellent workers”.
Steve Gavalas is a high-energy and very fit 51-year-old achiever and justifiably proud of his family. His wife Katina, who he married 24 years ago, is finishing a fine arts masters degree at UTAS. They have two adult children – “Ellie, who’s 16, is a soccer freak and is training with Football Federation Tasmania’s NTC program and 19-year-old George, a man mountain at 6ft 2in, is a top Aussie Rules footballer and is studying physiotherapy in Melbourne.”
Steve, born in Launceston, did a business course at university in Hobart before working as a business manager at Westlands nursery. It was there that he became interested in supplying the needs of the horticultural industry.
He bought the horticulture business in 1991 and has grown it dramatically. As well as processing and bagging a wide variety of horticulture mixes and now seaweed-based products, he is the Tasmanian distributor for a range of horticultural hardware, such as battery charged secateurs, which at $2000 each are invaluable for Tasmania’s grape-growing industry.
Steve has been heavily involved with his son’s former team, the Sandy Bay Football Club. But, probably in memory of his soccer-loving father-in-law, he is also on the board of the Olympia Warriors, based at Warrane. He would love to help improve their pitch with his horticultural products … but the soccer club has the only synthetic turf in Tasmania!