Alstonville is a quiet town, nestled in the hinterlands of northern NSW and surrounded by rolling hillside farmland. It was here, as the macadamia industry began to boom through the late 1980s, that Robert Eggins began tailoring his 20 year established business towards the macadamia industry. Servicing operators with maintenance, repairs and modifications to harvesting. He soon realised what was lacking when it came to efficient and purpose-built machines.
Along with his son, David, he developed a lightweight, commercial grade harvester, equipped with sweeping mechanisms and reduced stalling capacity for wet weather operation. Today, there are over 240 Robmac harvesters that are running on Australian plantations.
“The team runs a production pipeline with three or six harvesters in the works at any given time,” says David. “We build an average of twelve to fifteen units per year and offer ongoing support for all our customers.”
Robmac Harvesters is committed to supporting the Northern Rivers community, primarily by sourcing materials and equipment through local suppliers. According to David, having a personal connection with business partners goes a long way in delivering premium and well-suited machinery for the region’s landscape.
In addition to design and manufacturing, the team at Robmac are dedicated to offering personable service to their customers. If a machine requires inspection or repairs it is essential to have a fast turnaround, explains David.
“We buy our parts and components from Motion Australia because they are very time efficient,” he further explains, “Our local rep, Gary Livotto at BSC Lismore, has been coming to our workshop for fifteen years or so. Our longstanding relationship with Gary has been a key part in the development of our machines from the start. He is interested in the machines and how they work and has provided expert advice on selecting premium parts and components for them from the earliest days of our business.”
According to Gary, building the best machines possible that will endure in the field for many years starts with using the best components. “Nut farming relies on extremely tight harvesting windows, and a delay of even two weeks can wind up costing a farmer tens of thousands of dollars from wasted crop.”
“At BSC, our convenient services provide customers like Robmac with good backup if there are issues on site. They don’t have to worry about delays or stock availability. Plus, there is nothing like the personal aspect of being able to ring up and talk to someone you know well.”
Through Motion Australia’s businesses, Robmac sources Fenner, Timken and NSK bearings, sprockets, taper lock bushes and chains because “they are the best quality that we can get,” says David. “Going with these brands has been money well spent because we have never had any problems with their product, and we need that reliability factor. There is no point in building a harvesting machine that is cheap and will break down in the field. Farmers don’t want to stop mid-harvest.”
As far as work ethics and culture goes, David says it is all about a high standard of customer service for Robmac.
“We aim to be the best in the industry when it comes to meeting customer needs in a timely manner. We acknowledge how serious a breakdown can be cost-wise, and how important it is to prevent that from happening during harvest season.”
This knowledge is what drives them to build exceptional quality machines, undergoing frequent testing and design upgrades to meet industry capacity. Robmac Harvesters places a strong focus on balancing their designs to closely skirt the base of trees, while also providing optimum comfort for the driver.
“Even though it might look quite simple, there is an extensive design process that we are always looking to improve when it comes to these units. With each new model we are fine tuning the process – these products are created to make things easier for the farmers.”
In terms of navigating Covid-19, David reflects on the benefits of running a small team, focusing on quality product. While the business came up against a rise in steel prices and freight costs, having the option to bulk stock through Gary at BSC Lismore ahead of time helped immensely in the long run.
“We have been incredibly lucky. We run on a small staff, and the industry kept moving so the customers we rely on the most still required new machines and servicing. We have had enough componentry to keep our shop up and running, and we are set up well to handle other inconveniences because of the excellent service we have received from BSC.”
Alstonville is one of the most populated regions for macadamia farming in the country, with the majority of other plantations stretching down Australia’s eastern coast. The Robmac Complete Harvester is optimised for all weather conditions, thanks to its low ejection drag and grass cutting slots.
According to David, their design will benefit the movement towards more thorough harvesting, allowing every nut on the ground to be swept up for processing. This is more financially sustainable and minimises potential product waste over time. The wheels are specifically designed in-house to suit muddy conditions, while avoiding soil compaction around the tree base.
“The farming community is very tightly knit so if a machine is good, farmers will recognise this and recommend it to each other. That is why we have never had to advertise that much. Our orders mostly come through word of mouth. But it has not been an easy task. It has taken significant effort to reach a point where we can stand fully behind our product. Today, we are enormously proud of what we create, and we are planning to expand and upgrade our production capabilities even further.”
David attributes the success of the business to fantastic employees Robert, Ethel, John and Maggie.