Since starting Produce of Desire back in 2011, Dung Thanh Huynh has been on a quest like no other — recapturing his childhood experience of eating the tastiest, crunchiest and most refreshing cucumber known to humankind.
It’s hard to believe that cucumbers can evoke this kind of passion, but Dung has harnessed this and turned it into a sustainable business model that’s changing the way that business is done on the Northern Adelaide Plains.
The early days
While Dung enjoyed his corporate life working for a Fortune 500 company in the heart of Hong Kong, with a child on the way, Dung and his partner decided to move their small family back to Adelaide.
Produce of Desire began as a humble operation starring Dung, his one-year-old son, and a little red ute travelling door to door looking to purchase cucumbers from local farmers and resell them to distributors.
But what started small quickly blossomed thanks to Dung’s ability to think innovatively and apply what he learned in the business world to the agriculture sector.
Here are some of the innovative ways that Dung has turned Produce of Desire into a thriving local business:
Utilising Playford’s LoRaWAN network
Produce of Desire has managed to significantly reduce their costs by connecting to the City of Playford’s LoRaWAN network, which Dung learned about during a seminar at the Stretton Centre. This is the same network that lets Council know when its network of smart bins needs emptying (removing unnecessary staff travel and reducing local traffic emissions).
The system works through a network of ‘gateway antennas’ on the roofs of the Stretton Centre, Virginia Horticulture Centre and the Playford Operations Centre communicating at an ultra-low frequency with ‘end devices’ within a 15 kilometre radius. Privately owned end devices, such as those owned by Produce of Desire are permitted to utilise the system.
In the case of Produce of Desire, being able to directly connect into this system means that Dung can place a range of battery-operated sensors on his different sites that identify the optimal amount of water a crop needs to stay healthy (saving tens of thousands of dollars on water bills) and can track plant nutrition levels in real-time — all without having to leave his office.
Investing in People
Dung is also a strong believer in supporting new communities to flourish, and makes helping his staff and business partners to achieve financial independence a key goal for his company:
“Just yesterday, I was onsite celebrating with a lady from our growing African community after her team had completed their first planting. It was so encouraging to see what it meant to them.”
“She comes from an agronomist background through the CSIRO and initially approached me a year ago to discuss setting up hydroponics and protected cropping.”
“I am lucky to be in a position where I can fund her initial operations through my channels. We have been able to set her up with my accountant and a sustainable business model that will mean that she will be able to pay back the financing once her business is more established.”
“We also have her on a three-year plan to buy her own home, which is something that we actually do with a lot of our own staff. In fact, we give a first home bonus to our staff when they reach that stage of life.”
Like many business owners on the Northern Adelaide Plains, Dung understands the importance of sustainability to the future of his business.
“Our sustainability is something that I’m conscious of every day, not only for the planet’s sake but also because we’ve reached a point where it makes business sense to be sustainable.”
“It’s expensive to use mains water, so we’re capturing rainwater, and utilising groundwater through the well that we built. For power, Tom from the City of Playford’s Business Support team helped us with a grant application that enabled us to move from 75mm panels to 175mm panels to make our cool room more efficient and to move to variable condensers.”
“We now have 60 kilowatts of solar power on-site, 30 kilowatts of which we can feedback into the grid.”
Dung believes that Produce of Desire has completed its growth for now, with his attention now turned to creating greater efficiencies, investing further in making the business more sustainable, and working with likeminded people to build on the Northern Adelaide Plains’ reputation for growing some of Australia’s highest quality produce.
We’re looking forward to seeing what Produce of Desire can achieve next!