Blerick Tree Farm, Neerim South
Over the last few years, Blerick Tree Farm has focussed on China, namely assisting a Chinese company establish three advanced tree farms.
Blerick Tree Farm’s engagement with China, began with the “Kevin Story’’ in 2011, whereby owners Ron Geritz and Michelle Jones received a series of emails from a Chinese guy, which they assumed to be spam. However, fortunately after having initially ignored several of the emails, Ron and Michelle decided to respond to the sender andnbegan to develop a business relationship with the Chinese company.
In March 2012 Blerick Tree Farm made their first trip to China. One year on, they made another in April 2013, where they benefited from invaluable State and Federal Trade Missions to China. Between the two trips they have visited the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guilin, Chengdu, Yang Shao, Tianjin and Xi’an.
Establishing the farm in China, Ron encountered some initial difficulties in training the local tree planting staff to the standard of Blerick Tree Farm. Acquiring the appropriate planting resources was also quite challenging at the beginning. However, once the local staff became more capable on the tree farm, Ron was taken aback with how quickly the scale of the tree planting grew and Blerick Tree Farm were soon harvesting in significant numbers.
Due to existing protocols, Blerick Tree Farm has taken the approach of importing trees from the US rather than Australia. Ron is looking to export trees and genetic material from Australia as some natives and protected trees can be marketed under licence, however the biggest issues are quarantine and import permits.
Blerick Tree Farm have embraced technology as a means of communication between their business in Australia and China. They utilise multiple platforms of social networking such as Drop Box, WeChat, Face Time and email to maintain their Chinese networks. Additionally, they have set up IP Cameras at their Chinese farms to provide them with a live method of monitoring the site. From this technology they can then send annotated photographs with specific directions to instruct the staff.
As with many firms doing business in China, Ron stressed the importance of the concept of guanxi – stating “relationships are everything.’’ Ron has enjoyed fostering a personal connection with his Chinese partners and has hosted their Chinese counterparts’ families in Australia, introducing them to typical Australian pastimes and attractions. Ron sees the benefits of the Chinese way of doing business in that it not only makes sense to develop a close relationship with those you do business with but it also makes the experience all the more worthwhile.