When Jase Dobra is not hard at work at Western Australia's largest supplier of packaged salads - the Loose Leaf Lettuce Company - you will most likely find him on the racetrack in his superstreet drag car.
The mad keen, 30-year-old racing driver spends his working days managing Sativa Gardens for the family business.
The drag racing is his downtime passion.
The Dobras deliver about 25,000 kilograms of fresh salad mixes each week to the Perth Markets and wholesalers that - in turn - supply food service channels throughout the city.
Owned by Barry, Maureen and Kevan Dobra, the Loose Leaf Lettuce Company was established in 1998 as a means of adding value to leafy vegetable crops grown on the family's small market garden business at Lennard Brook, about 80 kilometres north of Perth.
Production was significantly expanded with the purchase of the Sativa Gardens property in 2005.
Today, across the two properties, the Dobra family grows a wide variety of leafy vegetable crops, including baby cos lettuce, red and green Coral and Oakleaf lettuce, baby spinach, wild rocket, Swiss chard, mizuna, and tatsoi under 53 hectares of fixed, overhead or pivot irrigation.
Mr Dobra said, as a fresh food business, quality and food safety were paramount.
"There is no second-best when it comes to salad vegetables," Mr Dobra said.
"Our customers demand a high quality, consistent product with no bruising, no leaf damage, no insects and a long shelf life - at least 10 days - and plant nutrition is a big part of that."
Crops are fertigated six times a fortnight, alternating between NPK and UAN-based blends that are direct-fed into the centrally-controlled irrigation system.
The NPK blend is based on YaraTera KRISTALON water-soluble fertilisers.
These premium compound NPK formulations contain added micronutrients, such as boron, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, sulphur and zinc.
Mr Dobra has a good handle on all the production aspects of growing salad crops, having returned to the family business in 2010 when he left school.
Growing up in Gingin and through his time at the Gingin High School, he was always itching to get back out to the paddock.
Nowadays he has based himself at Banksia Grove to create a bit of distance between himself and the farm, to which he travels every day.
"I think the separation of business and home life is important for mental health," Mr Dobra said.
"As much as I love my work, it is good to have that separation."
The Dobras have always grown lettuce through three generations of the family and were one of the first businesses in Western Australia to develop pre-made salad mixes.
"We now produce 20-30 tonnes per week of premium grade packaged salads - both mixed and single species," Mr Dobra said.
"Much of our produce goes to wholesalers and ends up in restaurants, cafes, the Crown Casino and mine sites around the State.
"We only do a small percentage for the supermarkets."
Mr Dobra said the family took pride in producing and supplying a premium and consistently high quality product all year-round.
If we ever have a crop failure - which is very rare - we will contact other growers to ensure produce gets to our clients.
The Dobras have a packing shed on the family's original farm in Gingin.
Mr Dobra said his daily activity at work was varied and included organising staff, calculating what and how much to cut and generally managing crops on the farm - with spraying and other agronomic processes.
He said the family stayed up-to-date with technology and all machinery could be operated remotely.
There are fixed cameras around the property so the family can monitor crops while away from the farm.
Some of the biggest challenges for the business in recent years have been staffing, disease management and increasing input costs.
"It is still really difficult to get backpackers, who were not coming in during the COVID lockdowns and are only now starting to trickle in," Mr Dobra said.
"That situation hasn't really changed from 2020.
"Disease is an ongoing issue that we are very vigilent about.
"And the rising costs of fuel, fertiliser and labour are a killer when you are limited by land area in the amount of production you can increase and there is push-back from buyers on any price increases.
"We are really being squeezed as producers at the moment."
In terms of future opportunities he can foresee, Mr Dobra said the family was always on the lookout for new lettuce varieties that will yield well, optimise fertiliser use and minimise costs of inputs.
Mr Dobra said when not at work, his big passion was car racing.
He was just awarded a national title for drag racing in Darwin and recently raced at a new track in South Australia before the WA series started at the Perth Motorplex earlier this month.
"I fit my driving in around my farm work," he said.
"Usually I am at work early and leave in the afternoon to go down to the track with my car club mates."
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