It is said that some of our soil is actually stardust from the remains of stars fallen to earth.
A 2021 study published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, for example, found that around 5,200 metric tons of micrometeorites (5.2 million kilograms) land on Earth every year.
Be that as it may, a turf farm in Jaspers Brush, New South Wales, most likely comes across these particles every once in a while. Turfco Australia was established in 1987 as a small family-owned and operated business in the Shoalhaven and Illawarra region.
Since then, over more than 35 years, the team is still made up of members of its founding family, such as turf farmer, Marcus Rogers. Marcus was born and bred in the turf industry.
It was his father (and his cousin) that began Turfco in the late ‘80s and who are still around today as they oversee the next generation coming through. While Marcus has technically been with Turfco since birth, he officially joined the team in 2013. Since 2019, he has been part of the business’ leadership team in his position as General Manager.
“Turfco started in the late 1980s a few kilometres from where we are now, on the northern side of Berry, just towing a little bit of turf,” he says. “Thirty-six years later we’ve got a couple hundred acres of turf and five different varieties.”
For Turfco, which is always on the lookout for the best possible product combined with the best possible service, it was a top priority to join the Lawn Solutions Australia network — an association of more than 45 of the best turf farms nationwide.
According to Turfco, this group amounts to over 55 per cent of the total volume of turf sold in Australia each year.
In 2020/21, the Australian turf industry produced 37.5 million square metres of turf valued at $269 million, according to the turf Annual Investment Plan 2022/23 that was presented to the turf Strategic Investment Advisory Panel which Lawn Solutions Australia occupies a position in.
As a result, for Turfco to keep up with the large demand for turf and grass in Australia, it was necessary to expand its fleet with the purchase of a new Isuzu FYJ 300-350 twin-steer truck.
“With turf, we’ve had a bit of a problem over the last few years with the floods and everything else,” Marcus says. “A pallet of turf when it’s dry can be six to eight hundred kilos, and when it’s wet, it can go up to 1,600 kilos and sometimes tip a little bit higher.”
Given the conditions, it became evident they needed another truck.
“We always had just standard rigids and bogie drivers, and especially when it was wet, we couldn’t quite fill a truck up with how heavy the turf was,” explains Marcus. “So, we opted for the twin-steer with an extra few tonne of payload so we could fill it up to the brim, even when it is wet.”
In hindsight, the purchase would allow Turfco to load more turf than ever before possible, resulting in an efficiency surge in its operations.
“It’s pretty good with efficiency, actually,” Marcus says. “Instead of getting eight to ten pallets of turf in there when it was wet, we can now always get 12 in. From a mass management point of view, it’s made us a lot more confident in filling our trucks up with turf especially when it’s heavy. From a business efficiency point of view, we needed another vehicle anyway because of growth and expansion.”
Turfco throughout its history has been loyal to Isuzu. The first Isuzu truck was purchased by Marcus’ father in the late ‘90s. He had previously relied on Volvos. He then bought another two brand-new Isuzus in 2000 – one of which is still present in the fleet today – along with three similar models to the new FYJ 300-350 as the business grew.
Since the first truck, Isuzu has been the only brand of choice for Turfco’s new trucks, due to their affordability and the familiarity the fleet’s drivers have developed with them.
“We’ve always liked them, and they’ve always worked well and ran well for us,” Marcus says. “When it was time for a new one, which ended up being the twin-steer last December, we didn’t even look at other models. We just rang up Dwyers Truck Centre in Wollongong and asked if we could have one.”
Having the dealer in its corner, Marcus says, has also been handy for getting parts. It proved no different here.
“They’ve also got a service centre in Nowra which is only 20 minutes from us,” he says. “It makes getting parts a lot easier because if they’re not in there they might be in Wollongong. If not, it’s only usually a day or so away. So, it’s always easy to get parts — we’ve never had a problem with the parts.”
Turfco’s automatic FYJ 300-350 8×4 is powered by Isuzu’s 6UZ1-TCN engine and paired with an Allison 4430 transmission.
A very unique feature worth mentioning though, is the Poyntz electric wagon cover fitted to this truck. Instead of a normal Tautliner, this system allows the curtains to be rolled up at once with a push of a button.
“That’s a massive thing for us, especially in windy areas,” Marcus says.
“It’s also a big timesaver when you’ve got multiple deliveries. One truck can do 12 different deliveries, and it might be a pallet per delivery. If you get to just press a button and the curtain rolls up each time instead of loosening the curtain and undoing the straps, it’s much more efficient when delivering.”
Although the FYJ 300-350 took some getting used to, being the first fully automatic vehicle in the fleet, it’s since become a favourite among Turfco’s operators.
“It was weird at the start, because when you first get in it, you’re looking for something to do with your left foot,” Marcus says. “But the guys really like it. We do have lots of hilly, tight streets where we are near the escarpment, and it handles the tight bends just as well as the standard rigids.”
The twin-steer FYJ, Marcus says, appealed partly as he thought it would please his drivers. In that sense the stars have aligned.
“When delivering turf you can spend plenty of time behind the wheel and we knew if we got an auto it would make delivering turf that little bit easier,” he says. “It’s certainly comfy and it’s easy to drive.”
Another rigid flat top is next on the shopping list. Unsure of the specific model, though, Marcus does know one thing — that Turfco will arrive back on home soil at Isuzu.