A young boy, the ocean and a dream

First published in the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman February 2018. Click here to read the full article.


In the small East Gippsland town of Mallacoota, Tim Rudge was one of many young boys who dreamt of being an abalone diver. While fishing was appealing to Tim, the idea of growing something and doing something more sustainable than fishing really appealed to him.

“My first job at an abalone hatchery taught me just how exciting this work could be. To be in charge of four million larvae you had a direct hand in creating was magic, and I was hooked! ,” says Tim.

In 1999, the Yumbah Aquaculture dream began. Yumbah – meaning large shellfish the size of your hand in the indigenous Yaygirr language – is a collection of four on-shore abalone farms at Port Lincoln, Kangaroo Island, Narrawong and Bicheno in Tasmania, and is the largest abalone producer in the Southern Hemisphere.

For Tim, setting up a business from scratch – particularly in aquaculture – was an extremely challenging and daunting prospect.

At the time the industry was very much in its infancy and there were no commercially successful abalone farms in Australia they could replicate.

“We have encountered many challenges on the journey – including a serious disease outbreak which decimated our stock – but we have persevered, as we firmly believe in the business and the expertise of our team to produce and deliver a world class product for our customers,” says Tim.

For business owners who are trying to crack the export market, Tim has the following advice.

“Work in collaboration with other players in your industry if possible. Scale and continuity of supply is critical – especially in export markets such as China – and securing this, along with price consistency is key to building confidence in these markets and establishing your business there.

“Where possible, identify clients you enjoy working with and share your aspirations with them. This will make it easier to identify partners with a common vision to yours that will help you grow your business in new and different markets.”

Yumbah’s success in the export market was rewarded with the Agribusiness Award at last year’s National Export Awards.

“Everyone at Yumbah is thrilled to have won this award and we welcome the official recognition of our team’s hard work. The award win is the culmination of everyone’s efforts here at Narrawong over the past year and underlines the overall success we have had as a business,” says Tim.

Tim believes the key to running a successful business is striving to constantly improve your business. For Yumbah, they have established a culture of idea exchange which is essential to the success of their business model.

“I love what I do and I am constantly challenged and passionate about Yumbah. It is a business with great ethics and I feel honoured to be farming the ocean in such a sustainable manner,” says Tim.