Andrew and Ann Leslie, Northern Rivers NSW
For Andrew and Ann Leslie, macadamias are a family business.
Located about 15 kilometres east of Ballina in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, the Leslie family own and operate two macadamia farms. Andrew’s father and brother are also macadamia farmers and together the families share three other farms in the area.
“Macadamias are native to the east coast of Australia and are Australia’s largest exported native horticultural crop,” Andrew said.
Having spent a lifetime farming, Andrew says there are plenty of challenges. Weather and climate conditions, including low rainfall in recent seasons, machinery breakdowns, financial pressures, staff management and crop yields all test a grower’s resilience.
“We implement best practices to continually improve soil health, minimise erosion and manage insects, all to produce the best quality macadamia nut,” Andrew said.
The business had arrived at a point where it needed to become more efficient when Andrew read about the Regional Investment Corporation (RIC) in a weekend paper lift out.
“I have always kept an eye on what grants and lending options are available to small business and thought the RIC loan sounded relevant to us,” Andrew said.
“My application was complicated because of my circumstances and I know of others applying and finding some challenges. But the RIC team will walk them through these issues,” Andrew said.
The Leslies have used the RIC Loan to refinance 50% of their existing bank debt. With the saving on interest they have upgraded equipment, including leasing a new orchard tractor and purchasing an extra-wide finishing mower.
“The RIC loan has improved our cash flow by lowering the interest rate on our existing loans,” Andrew said.
“The larger finishing mower has reduced my mowing time across the farms. That is significant savings in labour, diesel and other running costs.
“We have also upgraded our dehusking line to handle more crop volume coming in from the farms. This frees up labour to perform other tasks that are often left for later."
Andrew and Ann have also started a natural skincare business called ‘Avilla Farm’. Their products contain cold pressed and filtered macadamia oil sourced straight from their family-owned farm.
“These business improvements will strengthen our bottom line and greatly improve our chances of moving the business into the future."
The future of the Leslie’s business looks promising and Andrew said the outlook for the macadamia industry is strong.
“If you use the RIC loan as it is intended and reinvest in your business, you can turn this into a positive outcome and make your business stronger for the future,” Andrew said.