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Australia: Hans Van Schaik (76) passed away

Hans Van Schaik sadly passed away on 31st August 2020 at the age of 76.

Greenlife Industry Australia honours a gentleman and a visionary who changed the way future generations approach soil health.

Hans and his wife Marjan started a small earth moving business in the South East of South Australia 50 years ago and during this time he noticed bark and other timber mill residues that were by-products of the local forestry industry were being dumped into landfill or being burnt and he believed that those organic residues could, and should be, value-added.

As a consequence of this, Hans spent many years researching, trialling and refining the art of composting these timber mill residues. At the time Hans cut a singular figure running his various trials where he believed that these organic materials that were considered at the time waste could be composted and used to improve soil health and produce a stable and consistent growing media for the nursery industry.

In 1975, Van Schaiks Organic Soils and Bark Supplies was started and by 1985 the company was servicing both the Victorian and SA markets with bark based growing media.

In the late 1980’s, Hans started to trial composting of wood pulp. He was the first person in Australia to start these trails and once again it was against the popular opinion of that time. Hans gained a contract of supply with a local paper manufacturer which the company has retained to this day. This was Han’s first foray into composting non forestry organic residue.

Hans then started trialling the composting of domestic and landscape green organic waste material that was also going into landfill at the time and through his trialling, research and development he became a leader in Australia in the art of composting organic residues.

In 1995, Van Schaiks BioGro became the new name of the business.

Han’s innovation and foresight were recognised in the year 2000 when he was awarded the inaugural Australian World Forestry Day Award for his outstanding and innovative achievements in the forestry industries.

Hans had seen the family company grow to more than 120 employees across five operational sites and process in excess of 750,000 cubic metres of organic material per annum. It has become one of Australia’s leading BioSecure HACCP suppliers of growing media, mulches and composts under the guidance of Han’s son and Managing Director, Stephen.

In 2016 Hans and Marjan were honoured with a special inaugural award called the NGISA Industry Recognition Award for their contribution to the nursery and garden industry.

Hans was a humble man with a tremendous work ethic and self-belief in his vision and through his dedication, perseverance and courage he became one of the most significant influencers of the nursery, horticultural and landscape industries of his time.

Time has shown that Hans was a man before his time with his innovative and entrepreneurial approach to managing forestry and timber residues as well as other commercial and industrial organic waste streams and the legacy he leaves behind can never be understated.

Source: Greenlife Industry Australia

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