TMHA Localised Service Assists Far North Queensland ‘Growth’ Industry

POSTED: 3/06/2024

Branches Nursery, a thriving Far North Queensland horticultural business, has recently partnered with Toyota Material Handling Australia (TMHA) to enhance its operational efficiency and prepare for future growth.


Branches’ principal, Oscar Michel, has just taken delivery of his third Toyota Huski 4SDK4 Skid Steer Loader and is consulting TMHA on the supply of upgraded forklifts for his two sites. TMHA last year opened a dedicated branch in Cairns in response to expanding opportunities in the region.


“Previously we’d been relying on remote service from Townsville 350kms away,” Oscar Michel said. “Now we not only have access to local service, but we also have a business manager who understands our requirements.”


Branches Nursery maintains an inventory of 50,000 plants across 150 species, growing at two sites in Cairns and Port Douglas. Fifty percent of its stock is sold outside the region, largely in Brisbane and on the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, but also surprisingly further north fulfilling government contracts in areas like Thursday Island. The other fifty percent is sold locally to landscapers who are working hard to keep up with demand in a region whose population has doubled from 80,000 when Oscar Michel started his business in the 1990s to more than 170,000.


Cairns Regional Council forecasts a population of more than 240,000 by 2050, a constant growth curve which both Branches Nursery and Toyota Material Handling seek to service.


“Branches Nursery is a very important client for us,“ TMHA area sales manager Paul Allen said. “Operating in Far North Queensland comes with a unique set of challenges which are best met by a close understanding of local conditions and requirements.”


Oscar Michel agrees: “We were operating with machinery too large for our efficient use,” he said. “Now we have right-sized machines to maximize the operation. The Huski skid steer loader is able to properly maneuverer within our rows and purpose-built implements are easily interchangeable between each machine.”


Row width is particularly important in Branches’ nursery operation.


The Huski 4SDK4 is just 900mm wide, the smallest of Toyota’s six model range, yet it has an operating capacity of 320 kg , more than sufficient for the nursery’s intricate requirements.


“Easy changing between implements from auger attachments to a range of buckets reduces downtime and maximises the ability to fulfill customer orders on tight turn around, “ according to Branches’ Cairns manager Sebastian Abrue.


“ We call on the Huskis to do everything from levelling new sites , to crushing rock , preparing potting mix on a weekly basis , and most importantly transplanting trees as part of their growth program, “Mr Abrue said.


“ Reliability and versatility have been a major part of our experience with the Huski,   


“We’ve rarely had issues and to have service now available in Cairns increases our confidence.”

Branches Nursery has earned a reputation for innovation not only in horticulture but in logistics. It has worked with a local transport company to efficiently move its plant stock more than 1600km to Southeast Queensland while backloading the same trucks with soil, potting mix, and nutrients essential to future growth.


The efficient movement of plants and materials within Branches’ two sites is an ongoing part of conversation between the company and Toyota Materials Handling.


Mr. Michel and his wife Kate started family-owned Branches from a 1.6-hectare greenfield site in Kewarra Beach, now an exclusive suburb of Cairns where they continue to maintain their headquarters. In 2018, the couple expanded to an additional 15-hectare site at Mowbray outside Port Douglas to take advantage of less expensive land prices and to give their son Nick, 24, a grounding in the business. Nick manages Port Douglas while specialist Sebastian Abrue, now 10 years with Branches, runs Cairns.


“We had intended to consolidate in Mowbray, but Covid demand highlighted how the two sites could work to complement each other,” Mr. Michel said. Equitable allocation of machinery and staff between the two sites, on an as-needed basis, formed a substantial component of the cost-benefit advantages to support the continuation of both sites.


As Branches Nursery continues to grow, the partnership with TMHA ensures they have the reliable support and equipment needed for sustained success and innovation in the horticultural industry.

For more call Toyota Material Handling Australia on 1800 425 438 or visit

Branches Nursery principal Oscar Michel with his newly delivered third Toyota Huski skid steer loader

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