Name Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs/ The Leaf Farm
GGN 4059883567731/ 4059883568271 Website http://freshleaf.com.au/
Country Australia

Farm Profile

Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs (AFLH) was founded in April 2008 by Jan Vydra and William Pham. Both directors had a vision to bring sustainable, fresh horticultural produce, including fresh herbs, cresses, edible flowers to consumers in Australia and South East Asia year-round. We wanted to bring change to a traditional industry and develop and implement new economical and sustainable food-growing techniques.

AFLH was growing a mere 2,000 bunches of fresh basil a week in 2008. Fast forward to 2018, we have continued to expand and now cultivate 80,000 – 100,000 raw units a week across more than 60 varieties of herbs, cresses/micro-herbs, and edible flowers, over our two sites in Victoria, Australia – on a total of no more than 15 acres. Total products sold in 2017-18 was 7.5 million units. AFLH owns approximately 10% share of the $155M fresh herbs industry in Australia. From a 3-person farm, we have now established ourselves as a multi-site business with more than 120 staff. AFLH has always been certified by a third-party auditor for food safety production since 2008.

Consistency in quality speaks for itself. In 2017, Australian Fresh Leaf Herbs became the first in its category to become Greenpass certified for Australia's biggest supermarket chain Coles - a site-specific program through which Coles recognizes individual suppliers who are industry leading in managing the consistent quality of their products.

AFLH and its associated business The Leaf Farm (TLF) are also the first of its kind to be GLOBALG.A.P. certified for fresh herbs, cresses/micro-herbs, and edible flowers in Australia. We saw the potential for international needs for fresh and quality delivered herbs with a widely recognized food safety standard, and that is why GLOBALG.A.P. was the chosen certification for our 2018 GMP. Within Australia, we are also one of the first to be on board for the highest standard of Harmonised Australian Retailer Produce Scheme (HARPS) to be compliant to food safety, legal and trade legislation for suppliers to the major grocery retailers in Australia. GLOBALG.A.P. acts as the chosen base standard for this streamlined scheme.

In the next 5 years, big plans to expand are already under construction with new production and education campuses being designed, and investments are pouring in to create our nation-wide biggest and best fresh herbs supplier status.

Achievements

Quality-Driven Innovation
Our CEO Jan Vydra has been recognized throughout the horticulture industry and the small to medium business community. In 2011, he was awarded Australian Young Farmer of the Year and more recently in 2016, he was announced Rabo Bank Emerging Leader of the Year and received a Nuffield Scholarship – a highly prestigious scholarship that enabled him to travel across the globe investigating innovative ways to boost the yields and sustainability of fresh herb and salad leaf production. Jan is a first-generation farmer with a corporate background he has implemented many new techniques to progress the industry.

Due to his passion for knowledge in the industry, Jan - together with various industry-leading organizations - constantly gives tours of our farms to other growers, horticulture masterclasses, investors, and overseas producers in other sectors of agriculture (such as 31% of the top livestock and beef farmers from across Australia and New Zealand).

In 2015, Jan and William were able take AFLH to another level by winning an interest-free Nurture Fund from Australia's biggest supermarket to build a facility to develop and implement a modular growing system that would increase cultivation and productivity efficiencies, while also digitizing and statistically controlling the workflow throughout the growing cycle. Since launching the facility, our total revenue has increased 34% (2015/16 to 2016/17). Growing Basil in Winter and Coriander in summer were the focus of delivering this project. Basil is a summer-loving plant and faces multiple difficulties along the production chain to remain consistent in quality. The state of Victoria, Australia, has a particularly cold climate in winter and basil usually has to be shipped more than 3,000 km from up north of the country to be processed for customers. The Nurture Fund Green House is able to consistently supply quality living hydroponic basil plants in winter and living coriander (cilantro) plants in summer to our east coast customers.

From inception, our strategic intention was to deliver a more efficient model of horticulture that simplifies and reduces traditional climatic and operational risks. AFLH and TLF have been implementing our own internal digital web app called Habitat Wired. Habitat Wired is a modular system that incorporates purchasing and sales systems with production and order fulfilment, stock control, QA recording, freight logistics, report generation, payroll & employee time tracking, automated synchronizing with multiple accountancy systems, with germination and climate data tracking. This system has been implemented in other growing and/or manufacturing businesses due to its first-in-Australia traceability from before planting to the end consumer.

Celebration of the People
Consistent with the quality-driven focus and our innovative goal to deliver a sustainable production in the long term, AFLH has always played an active role in participating in industry-related training, conferences, and working with education institutions to engage more young and skilled workers into the industry.


Co‐funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia using research and development levies and funds from the Australian Government, AFLH was the first business nationally to commit 1 to 2 new graduates a year to our ecosystem. Our first graduate, Lisa Huynh, commenced in January 2017. It is part of a $3.9 million internship program aimed at attracting newcomers to the horticulture sector and to drive innovation by building a new pool of industry leaders. Lisa is now working fulltime with the company as our Product Technologist and Quality Assurance, focusing on keeping the high-quality produce and good manufacturing practices throughout the business. Lisa was also the leading staff who drove the GLOBALG.A.P. program and she has received immense support from the team to bring our practices up a notch.


We are constantly investing in upgrading our staff’s skills from traditional farming practices to job-ready training such as chemical handling, and nutrients and climate control, as well as practical skills like heavy vehicle and high-risk licensing, or fully-trained team of first-aid qualified staff.


Knowing that significant roles of women in agriculture and horticulture are usually gone unheard, AFLH always drives forward the mission to employ more female staff into the workforce especially in the management positions. Currently, 66% of our employees are female, with more than 42% in the supervisor, management, and corporate roles are female. Our female staff are responsible for a various number of roles throughout the production chain including planting, harvesting, packing, quality assessment, HR, sales & finance, product specialists etc. We are also proud as a business that employs staff from a diverse number of backgrounds, incl. Czech, Dutch, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Singaporean, and of course our born and raised Aussies.


AFLH and TLF commit to our quarterly business muster where everyone gets together for a celebratory meal and update on our growth as a business. We congratulate staff on their effort and have each team leader nominate a star employee who outperformed their duties to receive a gift of encouragement. These catch-ups are great for team building and bringing everyone together as a family.

Environmental Focus
AFLH and TLF are constantly looking out for improvement to our farming and manufacturing to minimize our negative effects on the environment. Studies done on our hydroponic basil compared to traditional farming method showed that we were able to save more than 900,000 litres of water to produce the same number of plants as field-grown, while reducing the growing period down from 6 to 4 weeks. All this with a greenhouse that only took half the land size of that of field grown basil. Hydroponic farming also means that traditional land and top soil are not heavily disturbed, thus can easily be put into ecological upgrading for environmental rehabilitation post-farming.


In Dec 2017, we self-funded 70 solar panels on top of our largest warehouse and within the first three months, we were able to see the significant reduction in costs in our energy bill. To date, more than 14,000kWh of solar energy has been generated in less than 8 calendar months.


Continuing with the trend in 2018, AFLH has been selected as part of the EnviroVeg pilot program. This pilot program is a funded pathway through to reach Environmental certification and attain the best practice benefits of environmentally responsible, sustainable vegetable production. By following the pilot program structure, thirty vegetable production businesses will transition through the program and have all costs covered in order to achieve third-party Environmental certification.

Integration of Smallholders
AFLH has been supporting a number of local and interstate fresh herbs suppliers to promote their growth as a small business. We offer to pay smaller and local family-owned farms to audit for their food and QMS certifications. Our Product Technologist, Quality Officer, and Farmers give them constant support on how to best grow, harvest, and store their produce safely. With our assistance in herbs produce, many of local farmers have been able to improve on their farming practices and be able to supply to more customers than ever before.

Other Accolades
2015: Coles Rising Star award.
2016: Casey – Cardinia Business of the Year award (Local Council)
2015: Coles Supplier Awards... plus many more