Let’s talk about grass and turf, I remember moving to Melbourne in 1997 and the first 10 years that I was here, I don’t think we saw much rain at all, it was right in the middle of a massive drought and you were telling me this is kind of where the conversation about turf and artificial turf started?
Based on the fact that Melbourne Bricks is more than just bricks, we had bricks, pavers and retaining walls and some landscaping products.
At that time we had some natural turf. The drought arrived so we didn’t sell a lot of natural turf as there were no drought tolerant natural turfs at the time. We saw an opportunity with artificial turf and thought we could add that to our range as a pillar and went and sourced some local manufacturers out.
We wanted to go Australian made so that happened in 2007. We struck up an agreement with a local manufacturer to make grasses that we liked and to our specifications and types and our brand SUPERNATURAL GRASS was born.
We saw a huge growth in the business very quickly because of the drought. Where people wanted paving, they also wanted grass and the SUPERNATURAL GRASS came into it and we were selling a lot of both basically.
So domestically, the synthetic grass was becoming very popular and also some commercial jobs so we did the rooftops at Crown Towers Casino and we did some areas around Docklands and that really got us going and we were doing schools and childcare centres.
We decided to get more involved in the domestic market with more of a focus on golf greens. Domestic golf greens for back yards which a lot of people use for multipurpose areas for their kids as well, not only for golf but soccer, football, netball, basketball, they are an entertainment area and if you are having someone over for a bbq or just for looking green all year round. So being a passionate single figure handicap golfer myself golf green’s have maintained being a very much a big part of SUPERNATURAL GRASS today.
It is a real recurring theme isn’t it in all of these outdoor products is that it seems to start out with the basic use of the product and lets just cover an area, put some grass down and I think at the time we were using a tag line, no water, no mowing, no worries.
So you didn’t have to do any of those things, little bit of maintenance maybe giving the outdoor a bit of a broom or a rake every now and then, a bit more sand or something like that and then people start to think of what is another use I can use, the putting green is obviously a fairly high end use for someone who likes their golf so there is a fair bit of getting that to actually look like and play like a real green or a real chipping area.
What has happened with the development of these products since those early ones which pretty much started out as astro turf, the one that everyone would know?
Astro turf in America was the original synthetic grass and that was designed by one of the guys that owned one of the big NFL teams/stadiums in America and they decided to cover the stadium as they couldn’t grow natural turf as they had roofed the stadium so they then designed astro turf that was a very thin product not natural turf looking as we knew it then.
Now we have the popular 40mm landscaping products, lush looking, our tag line is, it is so real it is scary, because they are so real now so they really mastered and mimicked the real characteristics of grass.
We have products like our premium neat, that when you walk on it it actually springs back up and retains its natural look and appearance without the fibers lying down or flattening out and they don’t look fake like they used to.
A lot of them that we have now don’t get that shine to them so they don’t look like they are artificial. Some of them have got the brown twist or loop and the different filament fibre in it to make it look like there is a bit of dead brown grass in it which some people like.
In our putting & recreation areas we start with our economy range which is a 12mm pile grass height which doesn’t have any sand in it, still putts really well but a good multi purpose surface and then we have got the pro golf range which is a sand filled 25mm grass which really does mimic a real golf green.
We can get it to run up to 14 on a stint metre and for the more serious golfer that is really going to putt on it and use it as a practice facility or for the die hard that just loves having as close to a real putting green in their backyard.
It has really come a long way in the technology and there is a lot of new products coming out which we have had for a while like the cool technology and there is a lot of new infills coming out as well that also help with the coolness of the grass and so I think over the next 10 years, synthetic grass will become a lot more environmentally friendly from the backing being biodegradable especially for commercial sporting applications where they are replaced on a regular basis.
Not so much in landscaping area’s because they will be there for a long time, 20 years plus but the variations of that will come into the domestic ones as well so if they do go to landfill, they will break down.
In America, I know they are recycling it so actually using it again to make new grass so environmentally it is becoming a lot better and just new technologies all the time.
For those real tragics going with their golf greens but there is now the ability to even mimic a particular green on a particular golf course that is their favourite?
Absolutely. We don’t do too many like that, we tend to try and keep them fairly flat and fairly neutral because small change of elevation really quickens the green up a lot and can be very hard to putt on so we have a left, right, up and down but not too much because you don’t want to over influence it but certainly if someone has a particular putt that they want to really practice a lot of and it might be at their club, absolutely we can mimic that on their green.
Inevitably, as anyone that knows the El Nino effect on rain, we got rain in Melbourne and it has been quite a wet phase I suppose of the last 5 or 6 years particularly in that winter spring time and then you got back into natural turf in a pretty big way?
Yes, we didn’t expect it to happen, we weren’t looking at going back into natural turf, we were approached by a company that grows and basically designs different breeds of different turfs and couple of meetings and conversations led to us thinking, ‘we do sell synthetic grass, we sell paving, we cover outdoor areas, it does go with it’ so hence the natural turf range was introduced.
We sell the Ozbreed brand so they have a lot of different species they have particularly in the buffalo grasses and they are tried and tested drought tolerant now and back then they weren’t but now they really are drought tolerant and have certain species that grow really well in shady areas well in winter time, well in summer time so we have a really good range.
We have a supply of farmers that we get direct from, from Victoria, NSW, so we can basically almost get grass 12 months of the year now because we also get it from interstate and locally.
There is grass for anyone. We have the natural native nara turfs, got the Zoysia types of turf again which again need less water, greener for longer and less mowing, less maintenance and they just look fantastic so that has really become a really big thing, we deliver weekly to domestic houses all over Melbourne both large and small quantities.
We supply commercial projects as well as domestic weekly and we have the logistics streamlined where generally most people want to install their grass on a weekend so we deliver on a Friday and it is fresh from the farm to you so it is cut today and delivered tomorrow.
It is great and become a really good addition to the range of products we have and most people are doing paving, landscaping at the same time, grass and paving and retainer walls and they all go together.
Anyone that wants no mowing and no water has got a very good looking artificial option and you can be happy to know that if you are going to put some of these new natural grasses in that if we do start moving into a dryer period again that they are going to be better than the old style of grasses?
Absolutely and people now have a good choice to make with the two and some people use both in the same environment. As the block sizes get smaller, lot of people don’t want to mow at all so the synthetic is fantastic on balconies e.g. it is fantastic and it is always green and makes you feel great and you have got no maintenance so they both have a place in our homes.
One of the criticisms of the early artificial grasses is when you walked on them they were very hot, you mention that there is some new technology now where you can fill it with something other than sand that keeps the temperature down?
Yes, so very much like when they developed during the drought where you could have these crystals for your plants where you could put these crystals in around your plants and they basically had some water in them, in the crystals, they slowly release, similar thing in the synthetic range so you put this into the infill rather than sand and as it gets wet, it releases a little bit more of it so you can actually dampen it and it slowly releases so creates a cooler air around the surface.