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Western Mineral Fertilisers (WMF) - Lincolns Award for Businesses with 11-20 employees and the Albany Port Authority Agribusiness Award

Pioneers in their field

Stephen Frost from Western Mineral Fertilisers says being recognised as pioneers was important to the company.

First-time entrants, Western Mineral Fertilisers (WMF), were rewarded for the company's pioneering spirit at the 2010 Albany Chamber of Commerce and Industry Awards by winning three awards.

The business took out the Lincolns Award for Businesses with 11-20 employees and the Albany Port Authority Agribusiness Award; were runners up in the Ausindustry Industry Development Award, and were joint winners of the HHG Legal Group Business of the Year Award.

Established 14 years ago, Western Mineral Fertilisers has evolved over several stages in that time, according to founder and managing director Stephen Frost, who also farms at Narrikup.

Initially established to import fertiliser, Stephen felt the need to change from using traditional farming practices on his own property and decided the way forward was to build a fertiliser manufacturing plant at Tenterden six years ago which was financed by local farmers and Mt Barker businesses.

WMF responded to strong local demand to make specific fertilisers for soil types and quickly established a research and development section of the company overseen by a microbiologist.

"We set up the company obviously to makes sales but we also wanted to improve soil fertility and that grew out of our concern about food quality," he said.

"We believe more chemical use is not the way to go - we're not anti-chemicals, but we believe mineral fertilisers are the way to go.

"We have had to prove to industry and farmers by developing products that are successful, sustainable and economic -  that's why we invested heavily in R&D so we could produce quality, independent results that hold up to external review."

WMF now specialises in the formulation of new, granulated mineral fertilisers and has developed a biologically active, silicate-based mineral fertiliser that re-mineralises soil and improves soil health and biology.

Over nine years of research in conjunction with specialist soil scientists and microbiologists, including farm-based trials, results have shown improvements in both yield and quality in a wide variety of crops and pastures.
WMF works with farmers to develop farm programs and assists with independent soil testing. The granulating and blending of the mineral/biological fertilisers is done at WMF's Tenterden facility, and then sold to farmers across the State.
According to Stephen, biological farming methods are a viable way of producing high quality, nutritious produce and shifting to sustainable and less chemical dependent practices. It focuses on improving the beneficial microbiology as a way of increasing plant growth and harvest yields.
"What we do goes against standard practice, we are pioneers and have been criticised by industry, agronomists, farm advisors and government departments - so it was essential our R&D proved the benefits of mineral fertilisers," Stephen said.

"Awards like the ACCI's give our company more credibility so more people accept that what we say is correct. This is new science and we are trying to build our profile and extend our credibility - our R&D plays an important part in that.

"We run the company with the philosophy that everyone has some responsibility and that means everyone takes ownership. There is no strong hierarchy and everyone is encouraged to have a say in what we do.

"We took a risk and receiving the ACCI awards has brought everybody together from director down and made us even more determined - it has brought us a new lease of enthusiasm."

Stephen encouraged other businesses to enter the ACCI business awards saying applying gave a good overview of what you were doing and provided a basis of your next business plan.

As for the future, WMF have developed a model to establish mineral fertiliser manufacturing sites elsewhere in Australia.

"The face of agriculture is rapidly changing and needs to be sustainable, in terms of beneficial soil management practices, as well as input costs and the viable use of limited resources like phosphate," Stephen said.

With this in mind, WMF would appear to have a winning formula.

Return to Award Winners 2010