From Buffalo to Berries, and Relish to Cheesecake

New Bootcampers on the Block

Seedlab HQ was buzzing with new Bootcampers over the last two weeks – with two new Tassie Programs starting in addition to the Seedlab Australia Round 2 Bootcamp Program coming to an end (Round 3 applications are open til just after Easter).

We currently only have funding for 1 round of Bootcamp for our statewide Seedlab Tasmania program, from the Regional Investment Corporation. We commenced with 47 new entrepreneurs from 31 businesses; 13 from Southern Tas, 7 from each of the North and North-West, and due to the funding opportunity, we also welcome 2 from Queensland, and 1 from each of Victoria and NSW.

To show the diversity of businesses we support in Seedlab, I’d like to introduce you to four new Tasmanian Seedlab Bootcamp businesses: from buffalo mozzarrella to Haskap berries, relishes to cheesecake baculo.

Buffalo Bonanza

Sheridan Lee and Phillip Oates from Tasmanian Buffalo produce buffalo meat and dairy products from purely grass fed animals on the rolling hills of Preston, North-West Tasmania.

Products include Buffalo meat, dairy, horns and hides for restaurant and public purchase.

Phillip imported Tasmania’s first commercial herd in 1997 from Victoria. Someone told him production of buffalo couldn’t be done in Tasmania, and after the bottom fell out of the deer market, he was looking for just that type of challenge.

They have two different genetic lines, but the two bulls have the potential (and predilection) to fight to the death and don’t get along well. Sheridan says buffalo are no more feisty than your average cow, although they are “bloody quick, and you can’t outrun them, so you have to handle them carefully”.

As a result of this, and taking the challenge one step further, Tas Buffalo are now undertaking a Tassie first, using an Artificial Insemination (AI) program for their herd of 35 heifers, with semen from Argentinian and Italian bloodlines, courtesy of Beatrice Hill Research Station, in the Northern Territory. 

Seedlab popped up a few times for Sheridan, who was very impressed with the growth seen by the Seedlab graduates, several of whom recommended the program to her. Sheridan says “Seedlab so seems to be the most effective and practical program I have participated in so far. We are looking to scale our business, and to learn more about the relationship between wholesaler and retailer, and how that works. We’re already only a short way into it, and I can already see how helpful it is going to be”.

Cool Climate Haskap Berries are Cool for Tassie

Denise and Howard Wilcockson of Garden Island Creek have identified a new berry for Tasmania: Haskap Berries. They have been developing a Haskap berry plant nursery to introduce the tasty, healthy berries into Australia, and encourage commercial production. Haskap berries are claimed to have extraordinary health benefits and can be used in a wide range of produce from cordials and liqueurs to jams, compotes to go on a cheese-board, savoury marinades suitable for game meats, sorbets, chocolates, ice-creams, tarts as well of course, fresh fruit.

Howard says: ‘the flavour is intense and mildly tart, with a hint of blackcurrant’. Denise is proud to have won Gold last year in the Hobart Show’s Fine Food Awards for their Haskap Berry Compote.

Denise and Howard were in publishing in WA before undertaking this venture: ‘something to do in their retirement’. After buying their property and deciding to grow berries, they searched for a cold weather berry, and discovered Haskaps on Google but then found they weren’t grown in Australia and that they had become immensely popular in Canada.

The only way to get them through quarantine was via seed, and that led to a challenge, they don’t grow true to type from seed. As a result, they attended a conference in Canada, and have been trialling plants and evaluating them for flavour, berry size, yield of fruit. They have found a few acceptable for commercial growing, and they’re now in the midst of having them multiplied by tissue culture propagation.

The Wilcocksons see Haskap Berries as a great opportunity for Tasmania, to export the berries to Japan and South Korea for which there is great demand (more info at

They saw an article about Seedlab somewhere and decided to apply, because although they have been in business most of their working life, this being a completely new project, they decided they needed discipline and good analytics to establish this business. 

They said: ‘We’re finding Seedlab challenging and interesting as in the past our familiarity with launching newspapers, magazines and business newsletters had not required the same level of discipline. The guidelines provided have been most helpful. The team is knowledgeable and very approachable’.

Relishing the Relish Café

Mel and Michael Sullivan are in their 8th year at Relish Café, East Launceston. Their aim is to serve the community good, honest, tasty food, work with local suppliers, and to grow the culture of their business by building hospitality skills for their team: 5 full-time and 5 casual staff.

But the aim is also bigger. To reduce the footprint of the café they have installed the 18 kg Ashgrove Milk and Udder Way Kegs, and a cup swap system. They give used coffee grounds away for compost or locals’ gardens, and source fresh produce from Youngs Vegie Shed, and deliver back to them a range of delicious sauces and relishes for sale locally and throughout Tassie.

They have created an extra revenue stream since COVID in the form of condiments, including tomato and zucchini Relish, which has been adapted from Mel’s grandmother’s recipe, to make it gluten free, dairy free and vegan. And a spicy BBQ sauce; both condiments are served in the café, and bottled for sale into other stores in Launceston, St Helens, Latrobe, Bruny Island and Hobart. 

Mel believes their point of difference is to make as much in-house as possible, including bagels, brioche rolls, white bread, fruit and banana bread. All the cakes, slices and biscuits are also made in house, including the delicious salted caramel popcorn that adorns every hot beverage at the cafe.

All of the dressings and sauces are made in their kitchen. They also make hampers in which “everything is made at Relish Café except for a bottle of wine”. Hampers can be ordered from the store, or on socials Relishcafelaunceston/ 

Mel and Michael applied for Seedlab to make connections to move forward and grow both parts of the business: the café and the condiments. “We’ve loved the content, and the discipline to pause, think and discuss”, says Melanie. “We find ourselves constantly working IN the business, and it can be hard to work ON the business, and make it grow”.

Cheesecake Baculo

We really hope Mel Burr from Scottsdale sends us samples of her Cheesecake Baculo to test soon! Cheesecake Baculo emerged from COVID, as Mel, a dental nurse, looked for new ways to diversify her income. Cheesecake Baculo is a unique format for frozen cheesecake (on a stick), which Mel has been selling at markets and fairs for 6-7 years.

Mel got into making cheesecakes because she was always the ‘Christmas cheesecake queen’. Mel’s sister suggested she put the cheesecake on a stick, so Mel gave it a crack and found that it rolled on from there. The word “Baculo” came when Mel put “cheesecake on a stick” into Google translator, and Baculo is Latin for that.

Mel makes 20 flavours of Baculo, the most popular is Caramel and Macadamia, Turkish Delight, and Raspberry. All except a few flavours are gluten free.

When Mel gets an idea she tends to run for it, and she’s looking at Seedlab for help to make the business a wholesale one, and also getting through the current rise in the price of ingredients and packaging since COVID.

Mel came to our Seedlab Value-Adding Workshop in Launceston in November, and says she was “very nervous, rocking up on her own and into the unknown”. Susie Lohrey from Regional Investment Corporation made her feel so comfortable: “she instantly put me at ease, and made it clear they’re all just regular people”.

Mel applied for Bootcamp because there’s a lot she doesn’t know. Her aim is to have a much more organised lifestyle, at the moment Mel decorates cakes and biscuits, and makes cheesecakes part-time, works as a dental nurse part-time, and does markets at weekends.  Mel says in three year’s time she’d like to be full-time in her business, and to have a more organised week, and not doing so many fairs. We hope we can make this happen sooner, for Mel.

We also have a over a dozen entrepreneurial Tasmanian women embarking on the first of three Seedlab Sisters Bootcamp programs in 2022, thanks to State Government funding through the Department of Communities ‘Supporting Women to Succeed’ Grant Program  – more on Seedlab Sisters in a later edition.