The Passionate Plant Producers
Plant Growers Australia (PGA) is an innovative wholesale production nursery. In their more than 30 years of history, they have built a reputation for superior quality garden plants and pioneering breeding programs. They have also built up a knowledgeable and dedicated team – including Steve Eggleton, General Manager, and Howard Bentley, Production & Operations Director. Though they may not be the original founders of the business, their passion for it goes back decades.
The company itself was founded in 1982 by five owners. In the late 80’s three of the original owners sold out, leaving just two who were then later bought about by Eggleton, Bentley, and their partners Dickson and Cole. Around the time of the buy out the all had been managers at PGA for several years. This gave them good insight into the business.
“We always knew it was a progressive company, it was definitely always considered one of the leading horticultural businesses in Australia,” Bentley says.
This, along with the high standards of technology and product delivery, made the decision to take over PGA easy, he adds.
Thirteen years have passed since the current owners Eggleton and Bentley have taken over the reins at PGA, and business could not be better. The company’s products are distributed throughout the country and in order to get as much market coverage as possible, PGA produces young plants which are then sent to affiliated growers who finish the product and have it ready for sale. This is extremely important when partnering with large chain companies who want national advertising with PGA products, requiring the plants to be available in all states at any given time.
Aside from being award winning plant producers, the company is both respected and trusted by their customers. This has given PGA the room to continue innovating and creating the best possible product for their growing clientele, who include chain stores, garden centres and the landscape trade. Having such a diverse group of clients requires a lot of attention to detail and care, in order to ensure that every customer is satisfied with their end products.
Currently, the team at PGA invest heavily in research and development to ensure that their products are always of the highest quality. This ensures that the varied group of consumers they appeal to will always be satisfied. Though consistency, quality and uniformity might be expected from any plant producers, PGA takes it to the next level with their quality assurance checks. These include several checks throughout the plants growth up to and including dispatch. A dedication to quality is a focus for all PGA products, and it is not taken lightly.
“Our People Make the Business”
The minute that Eggleton and Bentley are asked about their team, one can hear the pride emanating from their words. “You need the right people in your business, it is absolutely crucial when hoping to produce a fantastic product.”
The PGA team currently consists of 60 people at peak season – 30 are permanent and the rest are contractors. Many of the key people in the team have been with PGA for over a decade, and there are several who started as nursery hands and have now climbed up the ladder to management positions. This flexibility and room for development is significant factor in employee happiness, according to Eggleton.
“We believe that PGA is a great place to work because we provide good opportunities for our staff both in growth and development,” he says. We always aim to train, foster and mentor our staff members to ensure that everyone is on the same page and across the culture of PGA.”
This attitude is also used when forming relationships with suppliers, Eggleton adds. “We don’t have a massive pool of suppliers, but the ones we do use, have been with us for a long time.”
PGA is loyal to their suppliers and in return they expect consistency and reliability, whether it’s from their label manufacturer or their potting media producer. This uniformity is a key factor in maintaining a healthy business; giving customers a reliable product year in and year out.
Award Winning Innovativeness
InnovaBred is the innovative breeding division of Plant Growers Australia. PGA InnovaBred is well-known for its innovative and targeted breeding programs, having introduced outstanding new plants to the world.
Eggleton and Bentley started looking at the lavender genus plant over 20 years ago and saw a huge potential in making improvements to the varieties that were already available. Many in the market were disease prone and not garden friendly, making them less popular in garden use. The duo however knew that if they put in the time and effort to refine the plant and focus on enhancing its beautiful colors, they could have a winner on their hands.
After several years of tweaking, PGA produced a garden-friendly pink lavender plant that really stood out amongst the crowd, says Eggleton. Customers were drawn to the vibrancy of the plant, and it was an immediate success amongst retailers, landscapers and home gardeners.
Everyone in the industry took notice, and soon so did the Australian Business Awards, who awarded the company with the prize for Product Innovation in their category. They applauded PGA InnovaBred for their dedicated facilities, personal skills, and knowledge and a passion for innovation.
Moving forward, Eggleton says that innovative streak will continue. He says the company is committed to continue introducing exceptional ornamental varieties of plants to both Australian and international horticultural markets.
Keeping their Eye on the Prize
It is apparent to both the industry and to their customers that the PGA team definitely has an eye for new innovative quality products. At the same time, Eggleton says that team will not become complacent any time soon.
“We are going to continue to constantly increase our product offering every year, we understand the market is changing and we need to adapt to those changes.”
Nowadays, the average garden is much smaller than those ten years back, and the demand for high-performance plants is up. PGA aims to capitalise on that demand.
“We see ourselves looking at traditional varieties that are good plants but fit in small garden spaces,” Eggleton says.
He says that is the current plan the team is working on – as well as focusing on some more innovative breeding projects that could lead to a few more awards in the near future.
For more information, please visit their website at: Plant Growers Australia
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