Success in business rarely comes easily, especially in the Northern Territory (NT).
But Michael Quach has overcome barriers that would make even the toughest Territorian wince.
He arrived in Australia as a 15‑year‑old refugee after fleeing Vietnam with his family in a rickety boat.
Michael is now the biggest hydroponic farmer in the NT with 16 acres of shaded cropping producing cucumbers.
Life is still hard - he works tirelessly during the harvest and has all the other worries common to business owners.
But he loves Australia and there are few days when he doesn’t quietly thank his mother and father for having the courage to become ‘boat people’ to give their children the chance of a better life.
“I can never thank them enough. My dad said his life was over - he just wanted everything for his kids.”
Michael and his family left Vietnam in 1986 in a 9m long, 2.5m wide boat. There were 37 refugees onboard.
“We weren’t worried about pirates,” he says. “We were worried about the old boat sinking.”
He landed in Malaysia and spent the next 16 months in a refugee camp before being allowed to settle in Australia - a boy without money and barely able to speak English.
Michael started a one and a half hectare hobby farm at Lake Bennett after visiting a Victorian cucumber farm, which supplied his parents’ wholesale vegetable business in Adelaide.
“I thought the farm and cucumbers were beautiful,” he says.
“I later came to Darwin to help a mate on his mango farm and immediately thought the weather was good for cucumbers.”
Within a few years, he was working 16 acres.
“What was really just a hobby suddenly became a business,” he says.
His big break came when he won a contract to supply a wholesale market.
“From there things just got bigger and bigger - the wholesaler wanted me to grow more and more.”
Michael says the two characteristics needed most for success in business are the willingness to work hard and to never give up.
“All business people have hard times,” he says. “But you must just keep going until things get better.
“Go for it - and stick at it.”
Michael has been recognised for his work in fighting cucumber green mottled mosaic virus, which hit the NT in 2014 and led to quarantine measures being enforced on several properties.
He was a finalist in the Plant Biosecurity Farmer of the Year Award for his efforts at preventing the spread of the virus, including introducing chlorine foot baths.
His produce fills a gap in the domestic market because the Top End growing season is the opposite to that in southern Australia.
This means producers can demand good prices.
The Territory’s Vietnamese‑Australian community plays a major role in the growing agricultural industry.
NT agriculture is worth about $650 million a year; cattle accounts for nearly $500 million of that figure.
Michael will present by video link as a Territory business success story at: