Richgro: A rich history

As a proud Gold Sponsor of the Healthy Plants Healthy People conference, Richgro Managing Directorand industry Life MemberGeoff Richards, provided us a snippet of the rich history of this iconic West Australian industry business.

"Richgro has been trading since 1916. It was started by my Grandfather Arthur Richards then followed by my father Jack. Entered into packaged fertilisers as a result of a tender awarded by the then WA Nursery Industry Association in 1969 for Gro-Brite Fertilisers which grew to 168 outlets.

By 1972, Richgro was representing Jack Pike’s Ritegro and Pyco companies in Western Australia and within a short period of time it achieved the million-dollar milestone.

For the past 20 years, we have consistently innovated products and packaging. Packaging lines have been automated, with much “overseas” travel and focus on technology and innovation. Sole Australia rights that allow composting to be achieved in 6 weeks not 12 weeks. Soil and mulch blenders capable of 800m³/hour into windrows. Laboratory testing equipment that enables results in hours not days, and fully enclosed composting facility. With our food waste driven anaerobic digester allowing production of electricity 24/7 and total self-sufficiency for power including an 1150hp wood grinder. We have increased our research and development activities working with our three top universities and appointing Dr Bede Mickan our R & D Manager two years ago. We are a major participant in the recently announced $11 million Biosolids Research Project.

Working with Jack Pike highlighted the need for lateral thought processes and the desire to be innovative and progressive, important for one in their twenties.

The ongoing water restrictions in WA in the mid to late 70’s drove the decision to acquire the majority interest in MF Hodge in Adelaide, a well-known pasture seed and garden product company in 1979, then in 1984 created a Sydney operation, followed by Melbourne in 1986 along with Brisbane. Richgro achieved National distribution rights to Osmocote, IBDU, Phostrogen, Weathershade shadecloth, Décor Pots amongst others.

The arrival of Bunnings in Melbourne in the early 90’s saw them able to go to manufacturers direct which was death to distributors. So all interstate branches were systematically closed down and Richgro expanded their range and returned to the Australia wide market selling only their own branded products using a newly created distribution structure working with locally based companies that we had come to know.

We are close to commissioning our fourth site in WA, Stage 1 beginning with 1/3 of the area of 20 Hectares being covered in 40mm asphalt for composting with a percentage directed to horticulture and agriculture, however with the huge growth in the organic product market we are well advanced in product development in granular and liquid products.

Our work with one of the largest growing media producers in Florida is prompting us to think outside the square with what can be used due in part to the scarcity of Pine Bark we have in WA but mainly to produce a cheaper product with superior growth properties."