Companies on the Move

Shepparton production boost for medicinal cannabis

By Leon Gettler >>

CANNATREK, Australia’s medicinal cannabis company, is now building a production plant in Shepparton Victoria and is in the process of developing export markets for the Australian product.

Much of the team’s focus is on R&D. Tommy Huppert, the founder and CEO of Cannatrek, said medicinal cannabis can be used to treat all sorts of illnesses and conditions.

These range from sleep assistance, movement, mental health, palliative care, cancer treatment, autism, women’s health and men’s health.

“The best way to describe it is that over 100 years ago, the cannabis plant was one of the main ingredients in pharmacopia,” Mr Huppert told Talking Business

He said cannabis can now be prescribed by doctors using telehealth and that last nine months in Australia has triggered a lot of innovation.


Mr Huppert said R&D was critical for Cannatrek.

“The most aspect of a successful operation is the quality of your genetics. There’s hundreds and thousands of different types of plant, just like you have different types of tomatoes and apples,” he said.

“We’re trying to find the plant that is sturdy and can survive through extreme weather events which happen every few days in Australia. We’re creating this stable environment in the greenhouse.

“The key is to have those stable genetic lines tat we can predict and always produce a sturdy plant,” Mr Huppert said.

“Traditionally we grow from seed and pick out the most robust plant and then we clone those plants. We are trying to create identical plants because then they flower at the same time. We are trying to choose the plant that is more pest resistant.”

He said the company had 20 people working at its site in Queensland which, he said, was “a good size”.

“It enables us to test a lot of our systems, we’re looking at different type of lighting, of LED, irrigation, we’re grabbing mass data so we can scale up in our Shepparton facility which is very exciting as the industry is really getting up on its feet,” Mr Huppert said.


Mr Huppert said the construction plans for the Shepparton plant were now underway and the company was forecasting the site works to begin early next year. Construction would take 12 months.

In the meantime, the company was in full on production, with record sales. It had more than 3000 patients and it had a referral service, Cannatrek Access, which took inbound inquiries from patients looking for the appropriate cannabis prescriber. The company was connecting them with appropriate doctors.

“People are making an informed decision,” Mr Huppert said. 

“Patients are doing their research and going to their doctor and saying ‘What about medicinal cannabis?” and the doctors are now becoming more au fait and more comfortable prescribing a non-registered medicine and the results have been quite extraordinary from patients,” he said.

At the same time, Cannatrek has secured an export licence with Austral Health in the UK which will see the cannabis being used initially in an observational trial.

Mr Huppert said the UK was a good potential export market as they weren’t producing medicinal cannabis.

“We are also in dialogue with a number of other European countries, Germany, Poland, Czech Republic, Italy,” he said.

“We are seeing, literally, a nation-by-nation look at medicinal cannabis as part of their medical array of options for patients.”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at  


Brisbane LMBAs: Seipel Group highlights list of resilience, innovation, determination

SEIPEL GROUP, a relatively small Brisbane company that has made enormous progress in helping to solve a common global medical problem, highlighted the extraordinary drive, innovation and resilience of Brisbane-based business leaders, companies and start-ups as it took out the peak award last night among a list of high achievers.

The fact that the event, which filled Brisbane City Hall, took place at all was a testament to the way Brisbane people and businesses have rallied to persevere through and recover from the 2020 pandemic. 

Seipel Group was awarded the Optus business Platinum Award as one of the many insipirational companies that illustrated the resilience of the Brisbane business environment. Seipel Group is the only Australian company to have cracked the highly-competitive US nutraceutical market after developing the first scientifically proven herbal formula to help improve bladder control.

Acting Mayor Krista Adams, who stood in for Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner who was self-isolating as a result of a recent visit to South Australia, said the Optus Business Platinum Award recognised an overall winner from all categories, and winner Seipel Group also won the Australia Pacific LNG Award for Business Innovation.

“Brisbane businesses have a diverse range of endeavours and Seipel Group is the only Australian company to have cracked the highly-competitive US nutraceutical market after developing the first scientifically proven herbal formula to help improve bladder control,” Cr Adams said.

Following a harrowing year for Brisbane business, stories of adaption and success in the face of adversity were the highlights of the 15th annual Lord Mayor’s Business Awards. 

Acting Mayor  Adams said among 10 awards, science-based education company, Street Science was awarded the inaugural HSBC Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation.

“Pivot was the buzz word among Brisbane businesses which changed their offerings to survive this pandemic and Street Science have been a stellar example how innovation helped them, not only survive, but thrive,” Cr Adams said. 

“Street Science quickly adapted their business to become the first in Australia to launch a free home-schooling program as well as digital classroom kits and virtual excursions for schools around the world.

“This pivot saw them lead the way in how to educate from home and the company now reaches up to 20,000 people per week across six different countries.”

The Courier-Mail Business Person of the Year Award was awarded to iconic restaurateur Tyron Simon, director of well-known restaurants Agnes, sAme sAme and Honto, and Founder of LONgTIME and Rick Shores.

Cr Adams said the hospitality sector endured some incredibly harsh conditions when doors had to shut and patronage was limited but Mr Simon's perseverance and determination made him a role model for the business community.

“Growing up, Tyron had dreams of playing cricket for Australia, but these were crushed when he injured his knee. With a need to secure employment, Tyron discovered his love for hospitality and from there, one of our most celebrated restaurateurs was born,” she said.

“He has shown adaptation and perseverance through tough times, the courage to take risks and make difficult decisions, and he is proof that you can achieve whatever you set out to do.”

The Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd Award for Young Business Person of the Year was awarded to Ashleigh Morris, founder and CEO of Coreo.

“In just three years Ashleigh has grown Coreo from small beginnings into a globally-recognised and award-winning company that advises industry and government on creating a circular economy,” Cr Adams said.

“As someone who is clearly destined for great success, Ashleigh is globally recognised for her strategic foresight and experience and was recently named as a global Top 100 Corporate Social Responsibility Influential Leader. 

“A Prime Minister’s Scholar, Ashleigh is an Australian ASEAN Emerging Leader who has been invited to attend the 73rd United National General Assembly in New York. She is also one of only a handful of people worldwide to be recognised as an Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy Champion," Cr Adams said.

“I want to a thank the winners of the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards, and all Brisbane businesses for their ongoing contribution to our economy.

“The strength and resilience these businesses have shown throughout the pandemic, gives Brisbane high hopes for the future.”

The winners of the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards are:



Special Mention

ISPT Award for Outstanding Social Enterprise

The Common Good – an initiative of The Prince Charles Hospital Foundation

eWaste Connection Ltd

Urban Utilities Award for Product Innovation

Enviro Sand Pty Ltd

Seipel Group Pty Ltd

Xero Award for Outstanding Micro Business

World of Drones & Robotics Congress

Charlton Innovation

CCIQ Award for Outstanding Small Business



Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd Award for Young Business Person of the Year

Ashleigh Morris – Coreo


HSBC Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation

Street Science

The Little Red Company

Yurika Award for Environmental Sustainability in Business

Enviro Sand Pty Ltd

Howard Smith Wharves

ANZ Award for High-Growth Business Start Up



Australia Pacific LNG Award for Business Innovation

Seipel Group Pty Ltd

Aria Property Group

The Courier-Mail Award for Business Person of the Year

Tyron Simon – Agnes and sAme sAme


Optus Business Platinum Award

Seipel Group Pty Ltd



Ringo Chan could not bottle the perfect sleep – so he boxed it

By Leon Gettler >>

RINGO CHAN’s disruptive bedding business Ecosa has created ‘the perfect mattress’ – and is selling it way cheaper than the big players.

Ecosa is also good for the environment, as well as a good night’s sleep, according to Mr Chan.

Mr Chan said many people go into the big stores to buy a high quality mattress and they are automatically presented with a price of $5000.

“They don’t necessarily give you the best that they have, but they just want to manage you for the most commission they can get,” Mr Chan told Talking Business.

After the customer shows some uncertainty, they’ll usually drop the price more than 50 percent to about $2000, he said.

But that is still expensive. Ecosa sells quality mattresses for around $900. 


How does he do it?

For a start, the business is totally online. Which means customers can check the mattress out in their own time, and take as long as they want to make sure it suits them and they are getting a good deal.

“We cut down the price and make the best out of a best mattress,” Mr Chan said.

“We only have one type of mattress. You buy it and it’s shipped to your house, and if you don’t like it, you can return it.”

He believes this offers the customer more value than buying a mattress from a store.

“You think you are testing the mattress (at a store) but you can only lay down at the most for 10 minutes,” he said. “You’re not going to lay down on each mattress for 30 minutes, or sleep on it.

“Most likely you’ll be buying the softest mattress. The first time experience, the soft mattress feels good but when you are sleeping on a mattress more than that, there’s back support and spine alignment and all these other things.”


Ecosa mattresses are both eco-friendly and ergonomic. The mattresses have water-proof inner covers, G7 gel memory foam, Eco-tex memory foam, ergonomic support foam, and a removable Tencel cover. Each mattress also has an ergonomic cut where it is shaped into the customer’s hips and shoulders.

Somehow, the Ecosa sells at half the price of any mattress with memory foam, and that includes delivery and free trial.

They also use the most eco-friendly material, which is why the company is called Ecosa.

The materials for the mattresses are made in Germany, Japan and Korea and the product is assembled in China. 


Mr Chan has also integrated philanthropy into his business model. 

If a customer returns a mattress, Ecosa will donate it to charities like the Salvation Army. In this way, Ecosa’s return products go to help the community and do not end up in landfill.

“In Australia, it’s not very good to sell a second hand mattress, so if we let people donate the mattress, we are not selling it, so why don’t we donate it to charity?” Mr Chan said.

The result: Ecosa has donated thousands of mattresses and pillows to charities – and not only in Australia.  Ecosa launched in Australia in 2015, followed by Hong Kong and New Zealand in 2016, the USA in December 2017 and Canada in 2019.

Mr Chan said Ecosa also donates free bamboo pillow cases to cancer support groups and sheets to health care groups.

“We help out where we can,” he said.

Mr Chan said the company is now expanding into other areas such as bamboo-based sheets and a bedside table with technology incorporated to help people sleep better.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at  



Australian brand Ampol replaces Caltex on service station forecourts

THE ICONIC AUSTRALIAN Ampol brand is officially back on Queensland forecourts, with the opening of the first revitalised Ampol store in Redbank Plains.

A company spokesperson said the Ampol service station and store opening marked "an important step in the future of the company, showcasing its high-quality fuels and convenience retail offering to Queenslanders under the Ampol brand for the very first time".

The reversion to the original Australian Ampol brand was brought about after Chevron, the US company that had licenced use of the Caltex trademarked brand in Australia, withdrew the agreement for Australian use when the arrangement concludes towards the end of 2022. 

Joanne Taylor, executive general manager for retail and brand culture, said that while the revitalised Ampol looks a bit different to the Ampol of yesterday, the company’s "values and proposition for customers remain the same". 

“Ampol remains a proud Australian company and customers can expect the same great customer service and high-quality products when they step into Ampol stores, underpinned by our market-leading infrastructure and networks and commitment to playing a positive role in local economies and communities," Ms Taylor said.

“The Redbank Plains site also brings to life our drive to be world-class in everything we do and celebrate the best of our convenience offering through the Foodary and our unparalleled experience with premium fuels through our Amplify range. We know all our customers are excited by Ampol’s return and we look forward to welcoming Queenslanders back onto Ampol forecourts as we roll out the new brand across the state."

Ampol has a rich history in Queensland, with Brisbane being the home of the company’s Lytton refinery that came online in 1965.

The new Redbank Plains site, which sees the brand back in Queensland for the first time in 25 years, combines Ampol’s shop format, Foodary, with its new Amplify premium fuels to provide a one-stop shop that meets all the fuel and convenience needs of customers," Ms Taylor said.

Ampol has been designing and formulating fuels for the Australian market since 1900. The latest Amplify range draws on 120 years of experience and its ongoing focus on the latest global technology "to deliver performance fuels that clean and protect engines and allow customers to get the most out of every tank". 

The opening of Redbank Plains marks the beginning of a state-wide roll out, which will see more than 400 sites rebranded over the next two years, and 1,900 across the entire country, with the project to complete at the end of 2022.


‘Work from home’ just sped up but needs more grunt - Riverbed Tech

By Leon Gettler

EVERY BUSINESS is now engaged in remote work. But according to a survey by Riverbed Technology, many businesses find it challenging.

John Milionis, the channel director for Riverbed’s Asia-Pacific Japan network, said working from home thrust upon business by COVID-19 just exacerbated a trend that was already out there. All COVID did was make it mandatory for employees.

He said Riverbed, which has been around since 2004 and works with 92 percent of the world’s top 2000 organisations, had undertaken a global study on the future of work in response to the changes thrust upon business by COVID-19. 

“Some of those challenges are really around ensuring that their workforce can be as productive at home as they were in the office,” Mr Milionis told Talking Business.

“Certainly another one of those challenges is around security. Networks and infrastructure were built around a certain landscape, most of us being at work, in the office, in our principle place of work and all of a sudden we’re now at home and potentially that outlines security risk.”


Mr Milionis said Riverbed identified issues around performance such as slow file downloads, buffering – and competing with one’s children when mum and dad are trying to work while the youngsters were home learning or ‘smashing’ YouTube.

The other interesting part of the Riverbed survey was that around 70 percent of companies had not prepared themselves to support employees working from home.

“In other words, their business wasn’t ready to allow everyone to be mobile and to perform at their optimum,” Mr Milionis said.

He said issues around poor quality of audio and video was also relevant to the way people work now.

“In modern day work places, there’s probably a couple of key things we do and one is we use a hell of a lot of video and the second is we collaborate and share a lot of things,” he said.

“The challenges around that have certainly been prevalent. It suggests that visibility of the IT infrastructure is really critically important for business leaders.

“When we are unable to perform at our optimum or when we do have issues around things like buffering, or slow videos, or slow files, it does impact on the economics of any business so having visibility as to why and being able to remediate that is really important.”

He said that also created a lot of stress for employees who have to work from home, impacting on employee productivity.


Mr Milionis said the Riverbed survey had found that in excess of 20 percent of businesses now found their employees were working from home full time.

Mr Milionis said that affected a lot of dynamics like return on investment, barriers to success, and areas where the business needed to invest

“Some of those barriers involve the ability of giving their remote workers that office feel so they can work at their optimum, they can do their work and be as efficient as possible,” he said.

“So things like improving performance, improving file downloads.” 

He said Riverbed could provide businesses with software that could sit on a business lap top and make key applications perform a lot better.”

Mr Milionis said if businesses were going to move to having virtual workforces, they needed to empower that talent for them to perform.

He said there were three variables that impacted the performance of that talent: where is the talent located, what are the applications they are trying to use and where are the application servers hosted?

“Once you triangulate that, you can start building your IT infrastructure,” he said.

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at


Business adaptation gets special acclaim in Brisbane's awards

BUSINESS ADAPTATION is a new category in the Brisbane Lord Mayor's Business Awards, introduced to recognise excellence in businesses overcoming the challenges of the current economy.

Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner has called on Brisbane’s business community to nominate for the 2020 Lord Mayor’s Business Awards, featuring the new category for business adaptation.

Cr Schrinner said the 2020 awards program would recognise businesses that have persevered during the challenging economic conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Now in its 15th year, the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards celebrates the outstanding achievements of Brisbane businesses and Brisbane’s business people,” Cr Schrinner said.

“In 2020, the awards will shine a light on the tough Brisbane spirit as we recognise businesses that have showed resilience, perseverance and adaptation in challenging economic circumstances.

“For the first time, nominations are open for a new Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation, which will recognise businesses, regardless of company size, that adapted their business model in response to COVID-19.”

Cr Schrinner strongly encouraged businesses of all sizes to nominate, despite the challenges faced over the past six months.

“There are many Brisbane businesses, from large multinationals to community not-for-profits and start-ups, that have overcome difficult times through determination and ingenuity,” he said.

“We want to rally around these businesses and acknowledge their integral contribution to Brisbane’s economic recovery, job creation and future growth.

“By sharing stories of businesses adapting and prevailing, we hope to encourage and inspire other Brisbane businesses during our city’s recovery.

“Being recognised as an award finalist or winner can also help businesses regather momentum, make new connections and raise their profile to achieve greater levels of success.”

Nominations close on September 11, with winners to be announced at a gala dinner ceremony at City Hall on November 26.

Eight categories are open to businesses:

  • HSBC Award for Excellence in Business Adaptation
  • CCIQ Award for Outstanding Small Business
  • Award for Outstanding Micro Business
  • Urban Utilities Award for Product Innovation
  • Australia Pacific LNG Award for Business Innovation
  • ISPT Award for Outstanding Social Enterprise
  • ANZ Award for High Growth Business Start-Up
  • Yurika Award for Environmental Sustainability in Business

Two categories are open to individuals:

  • · Port of Brisbane Award for Young Business Person of the Year
  • · The Courier-Mail Award for Business Person of the Year

The final Optus Business Platinum Award category, not open to nominations,will recognise an outstanding overall winner from this year's award winners.

Nominate at



Tasmanian natural plant oil underpins Zea Relief’s success

By Leon Gettler >>

FROM little things, big things grow. That’s the lesson learnt from the little-known oil company, Zea Relief, and its unique range of products that are changing the way people treat arthritis, inflammation and pain at home.

The company’s co-founder and managing director Hayden Brass said he had turned Zea Relief from a family project into a company based around a unique Tasmanian oil, Kunzea. Most of the products are listed as therapeutic goods for symptoms such as arthritis, joint pain and muscle pain.

The plant for the oil grows in parts of Victoria, around Wilson’s Promontory and the only place in Australia where it is harvested and distilled is in north-east Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands. 

Mr Brass said his entire childhood had been spent working with oils and attending expos and shows with his parents, working with natural products.

“We were living down in Tassie at the time and people kept asking for this unique oil,” Mr Brass told Talking Business.

“We hadn’t really heard of it. We did a bit of research into it and decided to actually keep testing it and develop products that people could safely apply to the skin.

“We did it over a number of years, saw great results, saw there was a fair bit of research around the oil and its composition, but no one was really utilising it. So we saw a market there for something that was quite unique, that nobody was really tapping into.”


Mr Brass said he decided in July 2016 there was the potential to turn it into a scalable business after he completed a university course in marketing and business.

“We have spent the last three and a half years refining it, getting really good feedback, getting the products listed and really setting up the foundations for a business that could be scaled and be known in Australia and overseas eventually,” Mr Brass said.

As part of the process, his mother who is also a massage therapist, had been using Kunzea on her clients and this had produced some great results.

That created encouraging feedback to take it further and turn it into a business that was selling 40,000 of its most popular products around the country and had a mailing list of about 20,000 clients

Zea Relief products are sold in Chempro stores in Queensland and the company has partnered with Mr Vitamins in New South Wales and Nature’s Works in Tasmania.

The company’s core focus, however, is to sell online and have direct communication with its customers. 

Mr Brass said the great advantage of that is it develops a close relationship with customers.

Another big driver of the company’s growth has been to market Kunzea through Facebook and Instagram. This, he said, creates room for great conversations with customers

“We see a lot of other companies who advertise on Facebook and online and they don’t even respond to comments and questions that customers have,” Mr Brass said.

“We go above and beyond wherever we can to answer their questions, there and then, in real time and being as helpful as we can.”

Hear the complete interview and catch up with other topical business news on Leon Gettler’s Talking Business podcast, released every Friday at  


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