Based in Tasmania, in a beautiful spot where the Huon River meets the Southern Ocean, Huon Aquaculture employs nearly 600 people and is now Australia’s largest majority privately owned fishery.
Frances Bender is vocally passionate about the business and the salmon industry she and husband Peter helped forge.
Peter is just as passionate but in contrast is more reserved, preferring to work quietly behind the scenes. It’s this balance which Frances believes has driven the success of their working partnership, with both carrying skills vital to starting out in a fledgling industry 30 years ago.
“When we started out, Australians did not really eat salmon,” Frances says.
“There were no regulators, no suppliers, no scientists, no markets. We were extremely naïve.”
Transferable skills make the difference
The one real skill Peter and Frances brought to the business was their farming background.
“We had learned a lot being involved in a family farming business, including never to make the same mistakes over again,” Frances says.
Peter and Frances are the only founders remaining in the industry today.
“We’ve grown from operating a trial farming zone to a vertically integrated business that follows production from egg to plate,” Peter says.
Growing pains in business
Looking back over the years, Frances says that founding then growing the business has been like riding a massive roller coaster, with incredible highs and debilitating lows. For years they were putting everything they had on the line. They learned fast and worked hard.
While the business has become an undisputable success, Peter and Frances are not ones to rest on their laurels. Instead, they work non-stop with their team to find the next innovation.
“We know there are always ways to improve, and as long as technology is moving forward, so will we,” Peter says.
“Our focus has always been on good fish husbandry and we know that the healthiest salmon are also the best quality, so it’s important that we have infrastructure that can support that.”
Fish are harvested to order from industry-leading pens designed and built at Huon, before being transported to the Parramatta Creek processing facility 20 minutes north of Devonport where they’re processed rapidly for optimum freshness and quality.
“We’re always looking for ways to achieve more,” Frances says. “Peter will not accept it when someone tells him we can’t do something. He sees opportunity in adversity.”
Finding new ways to grow
After three decades Peter continues to focus on the future. In 2013 Huon Aquaculture worked with Commonwealth Bank to list their company on the Stock Exchange, opening up new opportunities to continue their business growth without having to rely on debt funding as they had in the past.
“We want to future-proof our business and that’s not just a matter of capacity; it’s also about sustainability, technology and innovation so there is still a lot to do and with no sign of things slowing down,” Peter says.
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