Seed money granted

Business owners Tony Merceica and Gary McKenzie are both Bachelor of Science graduates from UWA with specializations in Agriculture.

Both men say production of Cocopeat is a labour of love.

�We turn over $2 million per annum but there�s not much spare cash in those figures.�

For this reason the $11,000 grant is a real bonus for the company.

They employ a fluctuating number of staff (10-15) depending on the time of year to help produce the coconut husk by-product which is imported from India and processed in Middle Swan.

�It is often used as a substitute for peat as it is free of bacteria and produced without environmental damage,� Mr Merceica said.

Commerce Minister Michael Mischin said the grant provided a small financial boost for small to medium businesses to help turn innovative ideas into viable businesses.

�The successful applicants are developing innovations that have real-world relevance and will help build WA�s reputation for developing quality solutions for key global markets,� Mr Mischin said.

The Valley Flower Farm owners have been seeking to fine-tune their product so it is viable in hotter, drier weather.

�If you use this as a mulch or base for lawn it retains a lot of water and keeps things from drying out,� Mr Merceica said.

The money will be used to fund more research and development for the new product.

Mr Merceica said the cocopeat is currently used on their property as a bed for the flowers to grow in hot houses.

�While we use this peat on the flower beds it helps both parts of the business,� he said.

The product is supplied to businesses across Australia, and more specifically WA.

�The beauty of the product is the coconut husk does not break down like conventional compost and it is quite light to carry and use as a base in pots.

�We add worm juice, dolomite, eucalypt and other matters to make it up to a real bio-active product.�

Mr Merceica said the men had taken 5-6 years to refine the product.

Perth Hills MLA Frank Alban said the Valley Flower Farm located in Middle Swan showed a great initiative as a small business and was a deserving winner of the innovation vouchers program.

�Between 2011 and 2013, the Innovation Vouchers Program has provided financial support of more than $600,000 to 32 WA businesses,� he said.