Herb farm looks to China

Business seeks pastures overseas

HERB KINGS: George and Jan Bobin, daughter Susie Young and her son Blake. Picture: PETER WEAVING

HERB KINGS: George and Jan Bobin, daughter Susie Young and her son Blake. Picture: PETER WEAVING

GEORGE Bobin and his daughter Susie Young's micro-herb farm in East Bendigo has come a long way since they started growing hydroponic basil 10 years ago.

Not only has the farm grown in size - they went from being a father-daughter team producing 600 pots a week to having 32 employees and producing 30,000 individual pots per week - but it has grown in scope.

Mr Bobin recently travelled to China to examine the possibility of starting a herb farm in the country's southern Guangzhou region.

He said the "fresh eating" movement was in full swing in China, just as in Australia with the advent of popular cooking shows such as Masterchef.

B&B Basil's herbs supply the commercial restaurant market. They are attractive herbs used solely for garnishing.

Mr Bobin has "put the feelers out" for some suitable farm land in China. If one farm goes well, Mr Bobin said he would consider starting a few more. 

You produce in an area for the area, mainly because the fragility of the product. - George Bobin

"There are 25 million people on the Guangzhou region which is basically the population of Australia," he said.

Mr Bobin said having a China-based farm would reduce the challenges he faced in flying herbs to his existing import destinations - Hong Kong, Bali, Bangkok, Dubai and Singapore.

"My theory is that you produce in an area for the area, mainly because the fragility of the product." 

He said the micro-herbs were "living" when they were transported and were never more than 10 to 14 days old so they lost freshness quickly.

Mr Bobin is not nervous about the prospect of setting up a business in a foreign country.

"I have a foster daughter over there, she’s completing an English course and she is my ground person there," he said. 

A few Bendigo-based staff are Chinese too, so they will help.

Mr Bobin said his silver hair always turned heads when he visited China. "When anybody looks at me, I put out my hand for a handshake," he said.

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