Victorian olive oil producer Rob McGavin is, like many agricultural producers, a charismatic, friendly, and down to earth figure. He's also the executive chairman of Boundary Bend and, along with partner Paul Riordan, McGavin has helped transform the olive oil industry in Australia, putting it on the world stage as a first class producer of extra virgin oil under the Cobram Estate label.
Extra virgin olive oil has proven health benefits. It is the natural juice extracted from fresh, high quality olives, and is a key component of the Mediterranean diet. Of all the mainstream cooking oils available, extra virgin olive oil is the only oil that has not been heat treated or refined, and therefore retains its full health benefits.
The oil is 100 percent natural, replete with antioxidants, and is cholesterol and preservative free. Producing it at scale offers considerable financial benefits.
Today, Boundary Bend covers approximately 6,532 hectares of planted irrigated olive groves, making it one of the largest producers of extra virgin olive oil in the Southern Hemisphere, and in the top 10 of the world. Selling oil to both the domestic and export markets, the company employs 100 staff and grosses $40 million in revenues. With a 15 percent market share and a 30 percent share of the Australian category, McGavin claims market leadership.
"We now have the Europeans buying our product and planning to double production."
Growing up on a farm in Barcaldine, Western Queensland, McGavin says that his background on a small farm gave him the impetus to seek wider opportunity, completing an Advanced Certificate in Agribusiness Administration.
"I started to think what I could do to become more educated. I saw opportunities all over. We had a small farm that could support one family. I wanted something bigger. I looked at where I could buy a vineyard and convinced [my father] to mortgage the house and purchase a modest vineyard at Renmark (SA) for $235,000 in 1994."
Expanding the 'modest' vineyard from 35 acres to 600 acres and selling out in 2003, McGavin says it gave him "a good financial start." With his friend and partner Riordan, McGavin then went into olive production.
"I wanted to diversify. I could see no reason why extra virgin olive oil couldn't be successfully produced in Australia."
After borrowing money from friends and family, McGavin applied for and received funding from the Australian Federal Government under the now-defunct Geelong Investment and Innovation Fund (GIIF). According to company executive Andrew Burgess, the business funds were invaluable to the company.
"It came at a good time." He said the company received a total of $670,000 in business funding.
"The fund allowed us to put in plant and equipment that was eligible under the grant terms." He continues, "Like many government grants, it was a case of the government matching our funding on a one-for-one basis. The funds gave us more capability to analyse our olive oils and improve our bottling capacity. These are important assets to the company."
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