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‘Pure enjoyment’ in business and Bundaberg

Selling joy and living in paradise – Brooke Kimberley and her family were looking for somewhere to expand their aquatics businesses when they found home in Bundaberg.

It was 2018 when Brooke, husband Dan and their two young boys packed up their lives in Darwin and set off to find a place for their third business site.

Having already established sites in the Northern Territory and Cairns, Brooke and Dan were looking for a third site to grow their coral farming and export business, Monsoon Aquatics.

“We wanted to do something in the Great Barrier Reef and we were looking to live in a less harsh climate. So we packed up the kids, flew to Brisbane and set out to drive the coastline to Cairns,” Brooke said.

“We ended up in Bargara and fell in love. We bought a house two days later. We live in paradise. The weather is perfect, we love the relaxed, easy lifestyle here. It’s an easy and beautiful environment and I love the abundance of fresh fruit. We really are in a fruit bowl.”

The third Monsoon Aquatics facility was opened in Bundaberg in 2019.

Northern Australia wasn’t always home for Brooke and Dan – and primary production wasn’t always a life for Brooke.

“We both grew up in Sydney and met in our early 20s. Dan was working at Sydney Aquariums and had the opportunity to take a job at a wildlife park in Darwin. I was 22 when he asked if I would move with him – and I did,” Brook said.

“We thought it would be short term but we ended up staying for 17 years.

“In 2008 we had the opportunity to take a lease and collect coral in the Northern Territory. At that time no one else was doing it at the commercial scale and no one else was exporting from the Northern Territory.

“We started the business as we were having our first child.  The business grew and in 2016 I transitioned to working full time in the business.

“Prior to that I was trained as a dietician and worked in the public health and community development.

“It made sense for the family for me to move into the business and along the way I have fallen in love with it. I love the coral and seeing them grow but I also love the business aspect and building a team.

“I gave up a career I had established for myself but one of the biggest benefits to a husband and wife team is we learnt to work together and we completely trust each other.”

The coral faming business both collects and grows wild coral and also propagates coral in tanks – a sustainable process which makes the most from even the smallest piece of coral.

The team has commercial fisherman who are responsible for running vessels and collecting wild coral in what is a heavily licensed industry with strict quotas. The boat crews, skippers and divers can be at sea for up to three weeks at a time.

Back on land, a husbandry and aquarists crew look after the coral in the tanks and pack ready for shipping while the science, development and growth arm of the business works to make sure the best possible colour and growth rates are achieved.

It’s a polished process – with 72 hours to spare from coral bring packed to landing in its new home.

40% of the coral is sent to domestic retail shops while 60% is exported to 25 countries globally, especially America, Asia and Europe.

“We sell joy. It’s purely for enjoyment. It’s about people being able to bring nature into their living room and keep these amazing creatures in their homes,” Brooke said.

“It’s really interesting when you can be speaking to someone in Japan, Los Angeles and Warsaw all in the same day, I really enjoy that aspect.

“Every single piece of coral we collect has been processed by hand. There is love in every single piece. People really appreciate how important it is.

“For me I really enjoy seeing people’s love of what we do. It’s hard to describe until you can see the coral in the tank. The concentration of these incredible corals to see on a scale like that is really cool.

“When you work in this industry you have to be passionate about it.

“Our hope is to transition to being part of the aquaculture industry which long term contributes to reef restoration.”

Story by Emma Clarke

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