IT is one of the most successful start-up assistance programs in the country and last week the latest Seedlab Tasmania graduates gathered to celebrate their successes.
The Second Harvest eventwas held at Mount Gnomon Farm, where 12 food, drink and agricultural businesses graduated from the Tasmanian incubator program.
One of them is chef Esther Rupenovic, who has started her own gourmet petfood business, Jack and Chelo.
Based in Hobart, Ms Rupe-novic started out making food for her own two dogs when she realised there was a business opportunity.
“Everyone is really aware of what we’re eating and the fact we should be having healthy food, but no one was really looking at what we’re feeding our dogs,” she said.
Ms Rupenovic said dog ownership in Australia was among the highest in the world with 40 per cent of households owning a dog and the pet food industry here was worth $2 billion a year.
“When you look at the price of dogs now, if you’re paying $4000 for a puppy you want to make sure it’s being fed really good quality food,” she said.
She stopped cooking for humans and started the pet-food business about four years ago.
She worked with an animal nutritionist to develop a product range comprising six flavours, all made using locally sourced ingredients including meat.
“One of the things I’m really passionate about is making sure we’re getting the best local products we can,” she said.
Her products are made using low-temperature techniques to preserve nutritional value and natural flavours and textures.
With help from the Seedlab program, Ms Rupenovic is taking her business to the next level.
After mainly focusing on selling online her products will soon be available in IGA and Hill Street stores statewide.
“Just having really good advice to help work through all the systems and processes has been great and having industry experts to talk to has been a big help.”
Seedlab has supported over 100 start-up food, drink and agritourism businesses, including 40 participating in the extended Cultivate program.