Get out there and do something
WELL-KNOWN North Coast coffee producer John Zentveld is sending out a wake-up call to other local businesses.
"Don't sit there complaining about the state of the economy, get up and do something."
In the spirit of getting up and doing, Mr Zentveld's company Coffee And Processing Equipment (CAPE) is about to ship its first coffee huller to Tanzania.
CAPE has so far sold 84 of its locally designed and manufactured coffee hullers to growers in Australia and around the Pacific.
"There is so much doom and gloom around, but here we are, a small Australian coffee grower exporting locally designed and manufactured equipment around the world," he said.
A coffee huller removes the outer shell or parchment from the coffee bean without damaging the bean itself.
In 2009 Mr Zentveld started working with McGeary Bros Engineering in Woodburn on the design and construction.
"I knew what was required and this size of coffee huller did not exist anywhere else in the world.
"In places like Brazil and Colombia where this type of equipment is manufactured, the coffee plantations are much bigger, often up to a million trees.
"So the equipment they manufacture is too big for smaller operations like ours and those in the Pacific.
Mr Zentveld has also spent time in Australia and overseas working with a number of aid organizations helping small growers and co-operatives improve their growing and processing practices.
He has just recently returned from New Guinea where he supplied a new processor to the Coffee Institute Co-operative.
"The old technique they used could take up to 52 litres of water to produce 1kg of coffee," he said.
"We have replaced this with a process that takes just one litre of water to produce that same kilo of coffee and the waste pulp can be taken straight out and used to mulch the trees."
Coffee was grown in Australia 100 years ago but the industry foundered when labour costs became too high, only starting up again 20 years ago with the advent of new technology.
"In many ways it is fortunate that we are so young in the industry because right from the start we have embraced all the new technology."
He is now working with growers in places such as Timor and New Guinea to introduce these new technologies.
"In these countries coffee growing is a traditional part of their life," he said.
"When I go there people are often suspicious of someone like me telling them to do something differently to how their forefathers have done it for generations."
"It's a very slow process to build up their trust."
In when 1987 when Mr Zentveld first decided to plant coffee at Newrybar he knew he was taking a risk.
"Many of my friends thought I was mad and my bank manager advised me to just walk off the property and not plant coffee," he said.
His family company Zentveld Plantations has gone on to be one of the best known brands in the coffee industry on the North Coast of NSW.