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Grass is greener for turf grower

Grass is greener for turf grower

An experiment in diversification saw Bill Casimaty take the lead in turf production in Tasmania and Victoria.

Bill Casimaty’s turf business was launched in 1969, when Bill realised that his property, about 20 minutes from Hobart, was never going to prosper as a dryland cereal and wool farm.

The Casimaty's now have about 25 hectares of turf in Tasmania and 120 hectares in Victoria, and sell about 700,000 square metres of turf per year. They supply some of the best sporting grounds and racetracks in the world.

At 80, Bill has officially handed management of his business, StrathAyr, to his sons Frank and Peter, but the buzz that comes from finding new customers keeps him in the office about 15 hours a week.

Diversification meets innovation

StrathAyr has now evolved well beyond the mere cultivation of grass, with a long list of innovations to its name. Chief among them are the introduction of washed turf – which has become the industry standard for premium sporting surfaces – and also modular solutions from removable cricket pitches to palletised squares of turf that can be moved in and out of multi-use venues.

Building markets

Bill didn’t come up with the idea for turf washing, which involves removing the layer of soil under the grass so that the turf performs perfectly on the sand base like those found in first-class sporting field and racetrack developments.

The concept had been trialled in the United States but was not commercially viable until Bill assessed the problems during a Nuffield Farming Scholarship.

He went on to perfect the turf washing concept by developing the required machinery and product marketing and then building the market for washed turf by showing customers why they needed it.

“In 1988, I was going to Hong Kong for a holiday,” Bill says, “and I’d heard there was something happening there with a new racetrack. So about midnight the day before I left, I packed up two rolls of washed turf into my suitcase.”

The owners of the course had never even heard of washed turf, but those two rolls turned into airfreighting 70,000 square metres and that was the start of StrathAyr’s international push.

Longevity

While StrathAyr grows a range of turf varieties for the domestic housing market, including the very successful Sir Walter buffalo, its turf system business is where Frank sees the most opportunity.

“The turf system business, designing racetracks and sports fields and developing turf replacement options, has generated 60 to 70 per cent of our turnover for the past few years,” Frank says.

What the future holds

While the focus for now is on the turf system, the Casimaty family is still coming up with new ideas, trying new things and solving problems that clients never knew they had.

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This article is intended to provide general information of an educational nature only. It does not have regard to the financial situation or needs of any reader and must not be relied upon as financial product advice.