Tasmanian manufacturer of agricultural machinery Dobmac is certainly an example of a successful business story in an increasingly difficult business climate.
Established in 1983 by Philip Dobson – a former vegetable grower for an Edgell processing plant – the company has since developed into a leading manufacturer of vegetable sowing and harvesting equipment, with a branch in New Zealand and an ever-growing presence on the international markets.
Mark Dobson, General Manager of the family-owned business, says specialisation and innovation is what kept the business going in such a difficult business environment.
“The market has been very difficult in recent years because of the economy. We were forced to look at other ways to sell our planter and also wanting to move forward with technology has helped to keep us competitive,” Mr Dobson told the ABC.
“Our family likes to keep things positive, we don’t want to see the manufacturing industry moved offshore, so it’s been a challenge for us to keep it so that we can keep it here.”
Dobmac employs 15 staff, including engineers and welders, and sources parts from overseas and locally that are built at the Ulverstone workshop.
“We’ve employed some higher skilled employees and engineers to look at more automation and smarter ways that we can manufacture and be more efficient in how we do it.”
The company’s product range – which includes onion lifters, potato planters and harvesters – is also manufactured under license in England, Netherlands and the US.
But the piece of machinery that provided the company with an access to the lucrative US market was the potato planter that was first developed in 1983 by Mark’s father Phillip Dobson to handle the difficult planting conditions in Tasmania.
Mr Dobson says the unique design of the potato planter and its effectiveness in planting potatoes on undulating ground has helped the company crack the protective US market.
“We’ve worked with a company in America for 15 years, importing their potato planting equipment into Australia. They saw the unique design of our planter and how successful it had been on undulating ground. We’ve partnered with that company and used our technology and design to fit into their planting system. But for a small Tasmanian family business it’s a pretty exciting prospect for us to have our name in America, having planters out in the field,” he says.