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AU wine maker finds profit by diversifying with blueberries

Blueberries pair well with champagne or moscato, but for one of Western Australia's largest wine producers the combination of blueberries and wine has proven very profitable.

Vineyard manager Grant Lubcke said Mount Barker Blueberries was established after some market research and a visit to a blueberry operation in eastern Australia.

"We had land, we had water, we had a bit of expertise and essentially we had the equipment so we said what else can we grow to improve the enterprise?" he said.

Mount Barker Blueberries has since grown to be one of the biggest blueberry farms in WA, producing about 30 tonnes a year, with plans to double production.

He said at the start of their venture, especially the first two years, it almost did not seem worth it.

"For the first few years we really did scratch our heads and think, maybe [this wasn't right]," he said.

"We actually got to the point where we said we were potentially going to pull the pin.

"But then it turned around. After two years we turned a small profit and it turned the business around, essentially."

Mr Lubcke attributed part of the success to the way it was structured. Rather then taking full ownership of the blueberry business, the directors of the company offered part-ownership to employees.

"It gave us the opportunity to be involved in something and get some ownership when we're on the ground day to day which was a good thing and basically spread the risk as far as they were concerned as well."

The move to diversify agricultural businesses outside of the traditional sheep and wheat practice has become increasingly popular.

Publication date: 9/6/2017


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