Hidden away up in Buckland Park, you could easily be forgiven for not knowing that Jeffries, a fourth generation family business and world-leader in organic recycling technologies, has grown to become a team of 60.
We sat down with Christian Leonardi, one of Jeffries’ four key account managers, to discuss how they are using new technologies to create higher value products and diversify their business.
As Christian said, a huge portion of the nutrient rich mulches that Jeffries supply to the Northern Adelaide Plains and Barossa Valley are initially sourced from the 60,000 tonnes per year of green bin collections across various Adelaide councils.
“There’s a measurable biological and chemical benefit to what we’re able to source from the community and put into the soil of our growing regions [compared to traditional animal manure composts]. These are especially beneficial in areas like the Northern Adelaide Plains where there is higher salinity and there has been a lot of really heavy use over the years.
“When you look at our product versus a chicken manure, for example, our salt content is actually around five times lower. Our products can help rejuvenate the soil and bring it back to its best, supporting good root health and providing the beneficial bacteria needed,” Christian said.
Jeffries though, don’t just collect compost material from council pick-ups. Around 13 years ago, they started working with Drakes Foodland, for whom they were picking up around 20 bins per week:
“We’ve got six trucks on the road now which are out in the community picking up organic material from supermarkets, restaurants, cafes, schools and food processing plants.
“Amazingly, we’re still only at the point where 11% of organic materials from a commercial and a residential perspective are getting picked up, so there’s still so much room for growth,” Christian said.
Another way Jeffries have supercharged their growth is through investing into new facilities. In fact, thanks in part to a $272,000 State Government grant, they have been able to build a new pelletising plant which ensures that they can extract even more value from compost.
“Being able to create organic fertiliser pellets [Jeffries CulChar] means that we can branch out into new markets. These certified organic pellets really compliment the compost, as it feeds plants rather than just conditioning the soil.
“And right now, thanks to a Federal Government grant of over $1 million, we’ve been able to push forward with the development of a new product which combines organic compost and biochar. Biochar is something that ticks a lot of sustainability boxes, as it means that for the first time we are using organic materials that didn’t have an end market. It comes from the oversized material that we get from our kerbside waste collection that doesn’t break down enough during our 12 week composting period.
“The process requires the heating of woody materials without oxygen. It creates an energy source to run our plant [containing the vast majority of the gases and protecting the environment], and then biochar becomes the bi-product, which, according to our research, can sell for around $1500 per tonne.
“What we’re planning to do with it is blend it into our composts to help create higher value products. The true benefit of the biochar is that it creates a home for nutrients, water and beneficial micro-organisms for thousands of years.
“Our challenge over the next few years though, is showing the value across the whole region. So, if growers in the Northern Adelaide Plains want to talk about and use it, we are happy to support them,” explains Christian.
It’s not just the core products though that Jeffries is looking at through an innovation lens. As Christian says, technology is a huge opportunity for the company:
“Our online store has been a huge win for us during the lockdowns over the last 18 months. We’re even adding competitor products onto this now. These are mostly things that we don’t traditionally sell, but it’s great to have a partnership with other local businesses and demonstrate the value that online sales can have for our industry. Developing this further will certainly be a strong focus for us going forward.”