The macadamia industry in Bundaberg has been growing rapidly. After starting as a small industry in the early 2000s, Bundaberg overtook the Northern Rivers in 2016 to become the largest producing macadamia region in Australia. In 2020, Bundaberg’s macadamia farms contributed about 40% to the national crop, according to the industry’s peak body, the Australian Macadamia Society.
Ben Steinhardt’s business, B Fabricated, has been heavily involved in Bundaberg’s macadamia industry since 2009 when he built the first macadamia harvester for his family’s farm. His harvesting machines soon gained popularity and orders flew in from the neighbouring macadamia farms. Today, B Fabricated manufactures not just nut harvesters but all types of agricultural processing equipment, including conveyors, bucket elevators and batch weighing machines and also offers ad-hoc fabrication and repair services to the local farming industry.
Ben says most of the company’s growth throughout the years has come through word-of-mouth recommendations.
“We have a lot of emphasis on the reliability of our equipment. Most of our nut harvesters are custom designed to meet the requirements of individual farmers. Our batch weighing equipment is one of the only ones in Australia that is trade registered and industry approved. Our customers don’t just come from Bundaberg. We have supplied machines up to Darwin for harvesting watermelons and capsicums. Some of our batch weighing equipment have also gone to New South Wales,” says Ben.
B Fabricated currently employs eight full-time employees and Ben says the company is soon looking to expand to cater to the growing demand.
For the past ten years, BSC has been a key supplier of industrial parts to B Fabricated. BSC Bundaberg Sales Representative, James McFarlane, says B Fabricated’s machines are popular for a reason.
“Ben’s machines are really good. He builds them so that he doesn’t have to see them again once they leave the door,” says James. “His machines are also very versatile. The harvesters that Ben builds can be mounted on tractors and used to harvest nuts during the harvest season, as well as to mow between the trees throughout the year.”
With a booming business and a growing team, Ben says he appreciates when BSC representatives visit him inperson and help keep him up to date with the latest products on the market. One particular product that BSC has introduced to B Fabricated for their harvester machines is the Schaeffler FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units – commonly referred to as simply ‘black bearings.’
James says the FAG ‘black bearings’ are both economical and long-lasting.
“Macadamia is not like cane that you harvest only once a year. Depending on the crop, some growers might harvest macadamia a few times a year. So, to improve the design of their nut harvesters, B Fabricated were looking for bearings that would last at least a whole year without requiring replacement,” says James.
“Schaeffler’s FAG Black Series radial insert ball bearing and housing units are not just highly reliable, they are also reasonably priced and easy to mount. An added bonus for B Fabricated was that the black-coloured bearings also blended well with the aesthetic look of their harvesters, which are designed with black powder coated components.”
Ben says the bearings have proven their reliability in service.
“A lot of bearing failures happen because of improper maintenance. With the FAG bearings, we have found that even if you miss greasing on the maintenance schedule, the quality of the bearing is enough to still give the equipment extended life despite poor periodic maintenance. That goes to show their reliability.”
With BSC being a long-term supplier of Schaeffler products in Australia, Ben is also confident about the support.
“BSC is more than just a supplier to us. Their people are always helping us grow our product knowledge and giving us advice on ways to improve the life expectancy of our products,” says Ben. “With their support, we are continually striving to improve our products’ quality to help grow the regional farming industry.”
References: 1. https://www.bundabergnow.com/2020/12/11/bundaberg-leads-macadamia-national-crop/