AS anyone who has farmed would know, the most innovative ideas happen when you are behind the wheel of the farm workhorse - the trusty tractor.
Maybe it is the solitude, or these days the auto steer technology, that allows farmers to take the time to ponder and have those 'light bulb' moments, but whatever the reason, it is some of the results that are truly inspiring.
For the Fowler family, from Dandaragan, that lightbulb moment led to a very innovative and distinctive onfarm business.
Rainbow Water WA is the Fowler's own bottled spring water business, providing purified, fresh, chemical free, Western Australian, spring water to its customers.
Beth and Ken Fowler have lived on their slice of Mr Fowler's original family farm since they were married 43 years ago, and although the overall landholding may have changed a few times over this period, their connection to the family farm has been constant.
Like many farmers, the Fowlers wear more hats than that of farmers - they also have their own seeding and harvesting contract business and their Nice Ice business.
"It all started because my husband was sitting on a tractor, driving around and around, and was always coming up with different ideas and ways to help the business," Ms Fowler said.
"Most of the time I would knock these ideas on the head, but this one slipped through the goal posts.
"That is how we originally started with our ice business and then the water business was a progression from there."
As another means to supplement their farm income, the Fowlers purchased the Moora Ice business in 1997, upgraded the equipment and rebranded it to become Nice Ice.
With a really good supply of water and the space available, they moved their ice business onto their farming property.
This way all the facets of the business remain onfarm, making it easier for the family to all be involved, and provide a local product to the local and surrounding communities.
"We are very grateful to the local community for their support, as this really helped our business," Ms Fowler said.
"We are very lucky to have the support of the community and the mining industries in our area, they are our biggest customers and always have been.
"We cannot compete with the big businesses in Perth marketing and production wise, but we have very high quality water and a very good product."
The diversification into the water business occurred in 2000.
"We realised we had a good water supply and had invested in purifying equipment and tanks for the ice business, so it really made sense to us," Ms Fowler said.
"We purchased a bottling plant, this allowed us to produce 600 millilitre, one litre and 1.5L bottles for sale."
The Fowlers have an extremely high quality filtration process set up, utilising stainless steel tanks and purifying the water using Ultra Violet (UV) light.
"We have a chemical free process, using UV light, rather than chlorine to purify the water," Ms Fowler said.
"The UV filtration does not affect the taste of the water.
"We also have the stainless steel tanks to pump into, as the plastic tanks can change the taste of the water."
The use of UV technology not only makes Rainbow Water WA a superior product taste wise, but it is also environmentally more sustainable than chemically treated water, as well as being healthier for consumption.
The Fowler's commitment to supplying the best quality product possible is obvious, with their meticulous consideration of all the parts and processes.
This flows through to their environmental justifications.
The family's environmental sustainability has flowed through to current and future plans for the business.
The fact they are bottled water suppliers means they are producing a product with the potential for recycling and this is first and foremost in their business plans.
"Our first step towards making the business more sustainable was to introduce 15L refillable bottles for the water cooler machines," Ms Fowler said.
"With our 600ml pop top and screw top bottles, our one and 1.5L bottles we are registering for Containers for Change."
She said they were working through the process of registration and had wanted to use all their existing labels first.
"We want to be environmentally sustainable and that is why we chose to be chemical free and follow the strict guidelines, so Containers for Change is really the next logical step for us."
COVID-19 had an adverse effect on the business, but with the support of their local customers, the Fowlers had managed to remain viable.
Their strict hygiene protocols with sterilisation and cleaning of equipment had meant they were still able to offer their 15L reusable/ refillable bottles.
While diversification might be the key to success for any business wanting to remain viable in an ever-changing marketplace, the Fowlers have the added advantage of a clean, green, natural product that is immediately worthy in a world that is focussed on the provenance of goods.
The fact they have fresh, chemical free, natural, spring water available onfarm, from a rural/remote region of WA, makes Rainbow Water WA - a really unique product today.
Research online showed there are other WA-based bottled spring water companies, with claims of their water being from the Darling Ranges, Margaret River and Wangara, however, the Fowlers say they are the only company with their business onfarm.
With such a great product it is no wonder the local community and surrounds are strong supporters.
They have five local employees to help Beth and Ken and their daughter Amy in the water business.
Amy has now taken on the job of the day to day running of the business and is doing a great job.
She has really stepped up to the challenge when they needed the extra help.
"I had a stroke in 2000, so I am not really able to assist with the manual/physical side of the business," Ms Fowler said.
"We are just a small family business and keeping it family and locally-owned and run is very important to us.
"It started as a sideline for us and now it is the main part of our business, even though relatively speaking we are quite small."
Rainbow Water WA mainly supplies local to the Central Midlands, Wheatbelt and Coastal areas, as well as a few businesses in Perth.
"We also offer businesses the ability to rebrand our Rainbow Water WA with their own name," Ms Fowler said.
"We personalise the labels for the businesses or special events.
"As long as the label has the place of manufacture on the label, they can have their own name, picture and logo."
Ms Fowler said she was not sure how one Perth company had heard about them, but they were now one of their biggest customers, with their personalised labels.
"The company is Hart & Co and have been supporting us for many years now, and so has local business FEC.
"It is a good business and has kept us afloat during tough times.
"It has also been really rewarding for us."
Although the business has the potential for growth and to be much bigger than it currently is, the Fowlers have no plans on becoming bigger.
"For us, at this point, it is ideal," Ms Fowler said.
"There is nothing/no one like us around here."
The Fowlers sell their 600ml pop and screw top bottles in cartons of 24 and the 1L and 1.5L bottles are sold in cartons of 12.
They have their 10L bottles for camping and bulk water available as well as their 15L refillable cooler bottles.
WANT TO KNOW MORE
- Office 9655 0032
- Ken 0427 550 032
- Facebook: Rainbow Water WA
- Email: email@example.com