08 Aug 2018
Braham Produce: "It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle"
The dynamite couple behind Braham Produce are at the cutting edge of farming. From state-of-the-art irrigation to climate controlled greenhouses and IPM, Andrew and Zurri Braham combine this with continual learning to ensure they’re getting the most out of their capsicum crop. Since 2002, they have operated a family farm in Virginia, South Australia, and established a reputation for producing fruits of the highest quality.
Zurri: My parents started growing in Virginia 40 years ago with outside tomatoes. I met Andrew when we were both working at a refrigerated transport company for fresh vegetables in 1998. Two years later, we saw an opportunity to buy cleared land that used to be a vineyard and built two groups of greenhouses, totalling four and a half thousand square metres. We were both working full time and doing this as a hobby – who does that!? We didn’t have set goals, we were venturing out to see if it worked. We planted 10,000 plants when we started and now we’re up to 40,000 plants. We have three casual staff and our total growing area is about 15,000 square metres. We’re expanding to 16,500 square metres over the next two years.
Tips from the world leaders
Andrew: In 2004 I went to Holland for an Agricultural School. Holland is the world leader in seed breeding and most of the research stems from Holland so their practices are benchmark. We learnt about different techniques of growing and sampling moisture, measuring how much to feed plants and other things we needed to do. I started to think about our operation and how we could do things differently and our focus changed. In 2010 we both went to Mexico with a greenhouse construction company. These trips are educational and eye-opening, but what works well in one country might not work for us. That’s where you’ve got to learn to be adaptive and you’ve got to make the changes. Along the way it’s been trial and error but it’s all worked out.
Bell peppers find niche in the market
Andrew: We went with bell peppers (sweet blocky capsicum) because it wasn’t the norm. It’s more of a niche product in this area and it worked better for us to grow a specific item for the market: the traffic light capsicum packs. Bell peppers are a high quality fruit; they’re more consistent, presentable and versatile. We’re always looking to value add and there are still things I want to try.
Working with Rijk Zwaan
Andrew: We've had a good experience working with Rijk Zwaan and we’ve done a lot of things along the way such as screening trials with mini cucumbers and trying new material every year. The Rijk Zwaan varieties, Traviatta and Sven, are the two we mainly grow and we’ve never found anything that gets the same results. The thing about Rijk Zwaan is when you find the right product, it’s not just here today and gone tomorrow, it’s very stable and consistent.
Pride in what we do
Andrew: Growing plants is like nurturing 40,000 young kids. The way you bring up a kid is just like how you’d treat a plant. If they grow up well and blossom you feel pretty chuffed and get a lot of pride out of that. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.
Zurri: I wake up in the morning and I’m ready. If you’re just getting up and dragging yourself, what’s the point? You’ve got to have that dedication and passion in you. We’re proud of what we do and the quality we produce.