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Using a 'Standard' for Business Development

Green Fingers is proud to be featured in the December 2014 Issue of Hort Journal with the article "Using a 'Standard' for Business Development"

The following article was published in Hort Journal's December 2014 issue.

By John McDonald - NGIQ Industry Development Manager

mixing2Relocating and constructing a fit for purpose growing media manufacturing site under the Nursery Production Farm Management System in 2011 has led to Green Fingers Potting Mix securing three consecutive National – Best Growing Media Supplier Awards, NGIA Hall of Fame induction, four consecutive Queensland State Supplier Awards and recently the Gold Coast Business Excellence 'Environment & Sustainability' Award. Under the guidance of the NGIQ technical team Green Fingers Potting Mix has built a growing media manufacturing site guided by the Nursery Industry Accreditation Scheme Australia (NIASA) Best Management Practice Guidelines and the EcoHort Environmental Management System that has underpinned the business's recent successes.

Mr. Tony Mullan, Sales and Operations Manager, said "Being both NIASA Accredited and EcoHort Certified, along with SAI Global certification, gives Green Fingers a leading edge in performance, consistency and hygiene, allowing production nursery professionals to achieve optimum growing results from our products." This supports the Green Fingers objective and vision of providing the horticulture sector with consistent high quality growing media at each delivery whilst offering the best advice, value for money and personal service available.

Green Fingers Potting Mix has been producing growing media for over 30 years in South East Queensland, a NGIQ member for more than 20 of those years, supplying growing media to production nurseries throughout Queensland and
Northern New South Wales. Since relocating to the new premises at Woongoolba (South East QLD) in 2011, the business now has expanded its production capability for large volumes of high quality growing media both in bulk batches for growers and in retail bags certified under Australian Standards AS 3743, AS 4454 and AS 4419.

Green Fingers Potting Mix is proudly owned and managed by the environmentally conscious and innovative third generation of the Keith family originally better known for farming in south east Queensland and running the garden product company Rocky Point Mulching. This family company has 10 fulltime employees across the 28 hectare site located midway between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The business prides itself on a commitment to produce consistent high quality products backed by a personal and reliable service.

Mixing Pad  storage BaysIn undertaking the move in 2010/2011 the business turned to the NGIQ technical team for guidance and advice on how to set the new site up to industry best management practice, avoid any common design faults and to ensure
the business met or exceeded its environmental duty of care. Maintaining a high level of environmental awareness, compliance and stewardship has been a major driver for Green Fingers
in all aspects of their development and expansion with the results being an increasing client base, higher turnover and improved profitability.

Key areas that the business focused on throughout the construction of the site included all concrete work areas including mixing pads, storage bays, roadways and dispatch plus purpose built facilities to house bagging equipment,
office and staff amenities. The site is designed to allow all run-off water from rainfall and processing to drain to a common point and into a constructed holding dam for oxygenation (reduces algal blooms) prior to release to a neighbouring cane farmer for field irrigation of sugar cane. The dams on-site are further managed by the release of native fish stock fingerlings to control mosquito larvae and the planting of native reeds around the dams to reduce nutrient content, particularly nitrate and phosphate levels, prior to release for crop irrigation.

Providing water to allow the various process from composting, mixing to wash down has been a key feature of the planning of the site. To maintain the positive environmental theme being adopted across the site Green Fingers considered utilising rainfall as the primary water source as opposed to ground water due to the proximity to the coast (possible salt water intrusion into aquifers). Rainwater is collected from the roof area of all buildings, a total catchment of 4000 m², through a pipe network designed to drain to a bank of storage tanks that can hold more than 200 000 litres at any one time.

The site has planted significant vegetative wind breaks around composting areas protecting bark stock from off-site movement in high wind periods plus active storm and rain monitoring is undertaken to allow for proactive management of leachate levels. Weed management is also a high priority and ensuring least persistent or toxic herbicides are applied is mandated in operational procedures which protects water sources and prevents accidental contamination of compost through drift or spray contact. The environmental management system, EcoHort, provided significant guidance to Green Fingers in developing the whole site environmental management protocols and the ongoing monitoring of the system.

Composting Windrows2NIASA Best Management Practice has guided the development of the composting and storage system and the particulars around pest, disease and weed management and the likely threats to a quality finished product. Green Fingers have initiated a proactive system to manage any threats associated with fungus gnats/shore flies through the release of predatory mites and parasitic nematodes under a biological release program (inoculation) that is a standard operating procedure in finished windrows. All raw inputs such as sand and bark are tested, in-house and externally, for key plant pathogens such as pythium and phytophthora, root rot causing fungal diseases, prior to introducing the material into the production system.

Green Fingers Potting Mix is a company that has always been proactive in meeting and maintaining its environmental obligations plus looking ahead for their clients and their needs in meeting issues such as climate change/variability, drought, water availability, run-off quality and input costs such as electricity and fertiliser. With this in mind Green Fingers continue to experiment, test and assess professional growing media formulations that offer particular solutions to
specific issues such as incorporating coir fibre with composted bark to assist in water holding capacity, wettability and cation exchange capacity of growing media through to the use of zeolite with composted bark to improve some of the
physical characteristics.

Green Fingers specialise in customised blends to suit the individual needs of each grower including the landscape and nursery production industry, local councils and government departments. Green Fingers employ six staff that are committed to producing consistent high quality products backed up by a personal and reliable service. Their work ethic is simple, based upon providing a professional approach to service, expertise and the human touch. Green Fingers commitment to environmental sustainability, quality and service is further testament to the success of the company.

Green Fingers are enthusiastic about the future of all the industry sectors (production, retail, landscaping, etc) and the expansion into green roofs and walls, lightweight media and planter box blends and all new green global projects that require servicing in the future. Their supply to the production and retail supply chain continues to grow with both bulk grower blends and retail bag products, whilst still observing seasonal changes, trends, needs, despatch urgency and flexibility. Further on-site expansion is planned for 2015 including more undercover storage capacity and a new on-site laboratory designed to accommodate the growing business.

TrommelsTony Mullan gave the following as the reason the business sought and achieved NIASA Accreditation and EcoHort Certification. He said; "It's simple, firstly we wanted to take the company to another level of performance, consistency and hygiene which would allow professional production nurseries to achieve optimum growing results. Secondly, Green Fingers has adopted environmentally sustainable practices which will preserve the site for generations to come plus minimise any downstream impacts from our business activities."


This article has been reproduced with written permission from Hort Journal. You can view the full article here.  


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