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Bob and Elaine Hardy established Sorell Fruit Farm, starting in 1989 with a bare paddock.
It was in a sense fulfilling Bob’s long held dream to return to the land. Not that he was unprepared, as he had the practical background from family farms and a Diploma in Agriculture from Hawkesbury Agricultural College in NSW.
On top of that he had the scientific base from a Degree in Agricultural Science at Melbourne University.
After graduation Bob joined the Tasmanian Department of Agriculture where as an entomologist he specialised in pests of pastures and published many papers on their behaviour, biology and management.
He was Chief Entomologist from 1976 until 1982, when he transferred to the newly formed Fruit and Ornamentals Branch which he headed from 1982 until 1992.
From 1992 until 2002 he worked as a private consultant in the areas of pest management and horticulture.
His scientific background is behind the many innovative techniques he employs to reduce the use of sprays at Sorell Fruit Farm. Most of the time none are used.
He is especially proud of his use of parasitic nematodes to control black vine weevil in strawberries as the techniques was one developed by one of his entomologists, in conjunction with CSIRO, when he was Chief Entomologist.
His use of biofumigant mustard, in place of a chemical fumigant, prior to planting strawberries is another interesting technique.
Bob’s family history in Tasmania is very long; dating from the Kirk’s who arrived in Launceston in 1804 as part of the first group of white settlers in that area.
The Kirk’s had a daughter, Louise, not long after and she was the 10th white child born in Tasmania. Louise married an especially entrepreneurial ex convict Briton Jones who owned a small hotel in Franklin Village just south of Launceston.
Briton is best known for the construction of what is now called Franklin House which was Tasmania’s first National Trust House. Briton arrived in Tasmania in 1826 and served his time well before Port Arthur was established as a convict station.
PLANS are afoot to triple the size of the Sorell Fruit Farm and add a hotel and restaurant, following its recent sale.
The tourism venture and working fruit farm has been sold to Chinese businessman Yongyi Tao for an undisclosed price. Bob Hardy, who started the venture almost 30 years ago from a bare paddock, remains as an orchard adviser.
Mr Tao said he had been interested for a few years in the farm, which grows 20 different fruits that visitors pick themselves..
“After President Xi visited, I considered this would lead to a lot of Chinese people and Asian people visiting Tasmania,” he said.
Mr Tao said the experience of picking your own fruit was different to anything in Shanghai where he was from.
“Tasmania is a pure land completely different from China where everyone is busy — work, work, work. Here you can feel peace.”