Simone Beriad (00:15):
Hello everyone! Welcome back on the AgriAdventures YouTube channel! Uh, today we have, uh, another interview with, uh, a local producer here in, uh, South Australia. Uh, Chris! Thank you for being with us.
Chris Williams (00:28):
Thank you very much for inviting me.
Simone Beriad (00:30):
Uh, Chris, what’s, sorry, what’s your surname?
Chris Williams (00:32):
Simone Beriad (00:32):
Williams! Ooh, finally a surname I can pronounce properly!
Chris Williams (00:37):
Simone Beriad (00:37):
I generally struggle a lot around…
Chris Williams (00:38):
Simone Beriad (00:39):
…with so many different surnames. German, Polish, and I was like, aah.
Simone Beriad (00:44):
Chris Williams (00:44):
Simone Beriad (00:45):
Chris Williams, perfect. And we are in, uh, Amber, uh… Sun Alpacas.
Chris Williams (00:49):
Simone Beriad (00:49):
All right. You’ll have to see that. It’s amazing.
Simone Beriad (00:52):
Okay, so. Chris would you like to tell us a bit about you?
Chris Williams (00:56):
Um, I, both my parents were originally farmers before they got married, so there was…
Simone Beriad (01:02):
Chris Williams (01:03):
A little bit of farming in my background. Uh, went, did my schooling at Urrbrae, which is an agricultural high school here in, uh, South Australia, and at the age of 15, I left home, and school, and I went down to Naracoorte in the Southeast and became a stock agent, selling sheep and cattle. Uh, so I’ve always had, uh, agricultural interest, I’ve…
Simone Beriad (01:24):
Chris Williams (01:24):
… always enjoyed working with, uh, with animals. And, uh, it wasn’t until, uh, 1990 when, uh, my partner Nupur, she was a new partner…
Simone Beriad (01:35):
Chris Williams (01:35):
…at that point in time. She, uh, found these animals at the Royal Adelaide Show in the children’s nursery.
Simone Beriad (01:43):
The alpacas! Yes!
Chris Williams (01:43):
And so we, uh, she grabbed me by the hand and took me down to the children’s nursery and, uh, we have a-uh, a Newfoundland dog, very, you know, they’re very big dog here and, uh, and she’s always had them and, uh, they always have Newfoundland puppies so, I’m thinking, “oh no, here we go…”
Simone Beriad (01:59):
Chris Williams (01:59):
“She’s gonna want to get a puppy!” But no! She, uh, she walks straight past them, and down to this corner, and here are these animals I’ve never seen before. And, uh, this was the alpacas. So this was my first introduction to the alpacas. So this was in September 1990. So, uh, I did some, uh, exploration and at that point in time I could buy a pregnant female alpaca for between 12 to 14,000 dollars…
Simone Beriad (02:21):
Chris Williams (02:22):
And I just gone through a divorcing settlement from my first marriage and I said, “No.”
Simone Beriad (02:26):
Chris Williams (02:27):
So, uh, anyway! That was it. And about 14 months later, uh, 12 to 14 months later, Adrian was transferred to the Glen Forestation. So, Adrian was the first female firefighter of the Metropolitan Fire Service in South Australia.
Simone Beriad (02:40):
Chris Williams (02:41):
So there’s only four people on shift. Her and three, three men, and her station officer on her shift had alpacas. And, uh, so that got her all excited again and I said, “okay, if we’re gonna do it, let’s do it properly.” So, we went and borrowed 300,000 dollars…
Simone Beriad (02:57):
Chris Williams (02:57):
And spent on 13 alpacas. So they…
Simone Beriad (02:59):
Chris Williams (02:59):
… ranged in cost between 20 and 30,000 dollars.
Simone Beriad (03:02):
Chris Williams (03:03):
And so what you’ll see today, uh, and, when you visit, is what we’ve been able to, to grow and generate from that initial loan. So we now have 1,500 alpacas here on the…
Simone Beriad (03:16):
Chris Williams (03:16):
… farm. Here at Mount Compass. We are the third largest alpaca herd in the world, outside South America. We have herds in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark; we are in the process of, uh, setting up Embersun China and Embersun Indonesia, farms over there as well, so. We’re not just farming on a-uh, smaller scale here, we’re very much commercially orientated, and looking to continue to expand, uh, our operation and teach people how to run an alpaca business all around the world. So-
Simone Beriad (03:48):
Chris Williams (03:48):
… when we bought this, we bought this farm, well that was in 1992, we got involved with our, bought our first alpacas. In 1993, we started our own fashion label, 1995 we opened our alpaca shop at Hahndorf, which is still, uh, still open there every day. It’s only closes on Christmas Day. In 1997, we bought the farm that we have, uh, here today. And I’ve been 100% alpacas since 1997. 2008, we started, uh, exporting alpacas-
Simone Beriad (04:16):
Chris Williams (04:17):
… around the world. Um, and then, over the last, uh, five years we’ve been working with developing, uh, the alpaca business in China. So.
Simone Beriad (04:26):
In China. Okay, so gave me a lot of information. It was interesting, because you started from small pack, big loan, I can say for that time…
Chris Williams (04:35):
Simone Beriad (04:35):
… They were kind of expensive animals, yeah?
Chris Williams (04:38):
Simone Beriad (04:38):
Well, for my knowledge.
Chris Williams (04:39):
Simone Beriad (04:39):
And, um, and then now moved on these global scale of alpacas. So training and all this.
Chris Williams (04:47):
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Both, both Adrian and I, love the animals, enjoy the animals, how our business has, has worked as she’s still a lot more hands-on individually with the animals-
Simone Beriad (04:57):
Chris Williams (04:58):
… whereas I’ve use the alpaca as the nucleus and trying to build other businesses that are, ar-around it.
Simone Beriad (05:04):
Chris Williams (05:04):
Yeah, like we even, we’re now manufacturing our own range of quilts, like, bedding, continental quilts, we do those.
Simone Beriad (05:10):
Chris Williams (05:11):
And we export them to China.
Simone Beriad (05:13):
Oh, wow! [laughs]
Chris Williams (05:14):
So, you know, people go, “oh, that’s-that’s interesting that you’re actually exporting something back to China.”
Simone Beriad (05:18):
This is good, because it’s quality.
Chris Williams (05:20):
Simone Beriad (05:21):
Obviously, uh, quality’s appreciated all over the planet.
Chris Williams (05:24):
Simone Beriad (05:24):
So, you’re working with these products, and, and what else do you produce with alpacas?
Chris Williams (05:28):
Our-our main business is selling of livestock.
Simone Beriad (05:31):
Chris Williams (05:32):
Uh, like, both domestically and internationally. Um, same with fleets. Um, once we shear the alpacas, uh, we can take you down to the shearing shed in-in, uh, a little while. Um, so, we sh-sold raw fleece, we manufacture our quilts, and then over the last, uh, eight years, we’ve been developing the alpaca meat business.
Chris Williams (05:51):
Yeah, so we’ve been developing the-uh, alpaca meat business-
Simone Beriad (05:53):
Chris Williams (05:53):
… over the last seven or eight years and people, uh, initially sort of shy out and go, “Oh, what, you know, how could you eat these animals?”
Chris Williams (06:01):
The problem is, with the numbers that we have, what do I do with all the-uh, particularly the boys-
Simone Beriad (06:06):
Chris Williams (06:07):
… that are not good enough to sell as breeding stock? Um, there may be a white with a brown spot or, you know, something else that’s not quite right there, it may be a female that has a genetic fault or something that’s not right or cannot produce milk.
Simone Beriad (06:19):
Chris Williams (06:20):
So, the alpaca lives for 20 years. And so, it’s a very long time that I’m perhaps keeping unproductive animals…
Simone Beriad (06:27):
Chris Williams (06:27):
… here on the farm. So, we looked at the most logical thing, was the, was the meat business and the-the meat is absolutely beautiful.
Simone Beriad (06:35):
Chris Williams (06:35):
So, this is something else that we can, uh, we can-we can share with the, with the people visiting, you know? Be it, uh, an organized meal or just, uh, uh, a platter.
Simone Beriad (06:45):
Chris Williams (06:46):
And, uh, and taste. Hence, the next thing, the next phase of the development of our business, is that we’re about to build a tourist complex, which will have a-a restaurant, dining out, they’ll be actually dining out over the water, because we have this beautiful-
Simone Beriad (06:59):
Chris Williams (07:00):
… beautiful lake, here. Um, and then we can showcase all the different aspects of the alpaca meat. Sure, some people won’t wanna try alpaca meat, because they-they like the animals too much, and we totally accept that. And so, there’ll be, you know, there’ll-there’ll be a-uh, an opportunity on the menu for, for everyone from vegans and vegetarians through to people that are quite happy to try the alpaca. So…
Simone Beriad (07:19):
Chris Williams (07:20):
We wanted to showcase that, to showcase the product, we’re gonna shop here on the farm, um, as well, so we can expose every facet of the alpaca industry to people once they’re visiting.
Simone Beriad (07:30):
Alpacas and animals that, uh, seems quite, uh, um, adept easily on Australian, um, environment. I don’t see they… are they kind of… do they have a big impact? Do they need a lot of water? Or are they light in water? They are…
Chris Williams (07:47):
No, no. The-the alpaca is actually from the Camelidae family, so…
Simone Beriad (07:47):
Chris Williams (07:47):
… it’s cousins of the llama, the Guanaco, which is the wild version of the llama, the alpaca itself, the Vicuña, which is the wild version of the Vicuña. Um, as far as water consumption, they only need about three liters of water per day. So they don’t need…
Simone Beriad (08:01):
Chris Williams (08:02):
… don’t need a lot. Um, they have soft feet. So they have a soft padded foot no, no different, really, than you and I, and-and-and a toenail at the-at the front. So they got two toes on each foot; and so, their actual impact on the Earth’s surface is less than you and I.
Simone Beriad (08:18):
Chris Williams (08:18):
So, per-per stable-
Simone Beriad (08:20):
So they have much impact, yeah.
Chris Williams (08:21):
… Per square centimeter of impact, per body weight, is lighter than human.
Simone Beriad (08:27):
Chris Williams (08:27):
Simone Beriad (08:27):
… they can go around-
Chris Williams (08:29):
Simone Beriad (08:29):
… there, no issue with damage?
Chris Williams (08:30):
So, what you, what you see when you come onto the property is we’re very sandy soil, here. So we’re very wet during the Winter and quite dry and sandy during the Summer. If I had a cloven-foot hoofed animal, like cattle or sheep-
Simone Beriad (08:43):
Chris Williams (08:43):
… they would make a mess of it; whereas, I can keep my farm nearly like a lawn, because they’re not ripping the-the-the, uh, grass out of the ground. Their feeders are very low impact, on the g- on the ground, and we’re able to keep their stocking rates quite high. So, they’re very adaptable and it was interesting. Only yesterday I had, uh, uh, a farmer from Belrenald, which is right out- right out in the Outback.
Simone Beriad (09:06):
Chris Williams (09:07):
And he was, so, he farms big numbers of Dorper sheep, but he said they’re decimating the country, and I said, “You know, come down to the farm, [inaudible 00:09:16]- come back and actually make a special trip back to visit us, to see the impact that the alpaca is making purely on the ground.”
Simone Beriad (09:22):
Chris Williams (09:23):
So, I think the alpaca can be very adaptable to a lot of the areas of Australia that have fragile soils.
Simone Beriad (09:29):
Yes, and that’s the other thing is, I was thinking is, that the-the behind-the-scene of sustainability, because as animals, they require less water, and they-they can [inaudible 00:09:41] shade. You don’t need to have a lot of cow-
Chris Williams (09:43):
Simone Beriad (09:43):
Chris Williams (09:44):
Simone Beriad (09:44):
You can also have alpacas, and they can be u-used in many different ways-
Chris Williams (09:48):
Simone Beriad (09:49):
… and also, they are lovely animals. So, you were speaking about the fact to come and visit, so what will happen in the future when this project of, uh, um, hospitality we-we’ll be hoping, or people will come over here and they will say they will have a restaurant, but they will have chances to learn and speaking-
Chris Williams (10:05):
Oh, ver-very, very much. We will, will be offering, uh an opportunity, um, which we call, we-there’ll be a few opportunities, but one of them will be a walk-and-talk.
Simone Beriad (10:14):
Chris Williams (10:15):
So what happens with a walk-and-talk is the, uh, people either as in individual or groups, they’ll be able to select their own alpaca-
Simone Beriad (10:22):
Chris Williams (10:23):
… from a, from a small group. They will get a-uh, halter, and we’ll teach them how to put the halter on the alpaca properly. And then we’ll have a guide that will take them for, you know, for a walk around the farm and around the lake and, uh, that guide, be it myself, my son, or whoever, will then tell them about what Ambersun is about, what Ambersun is doing, what the alpaca industry is doing-
Simone Beriad (10:48):
Chris Williams (10:49):
… and anything in between. So, uh, we are able to adapt to whatever group, it might be a group of, say, businessmen that want to know-
Simone Beriad (10:56):
Chris Williams (10:56):
“Okay, we want to do a tour with Chris, now Chris how are you making money out of alpacas?” [inaudible 00:11:01]
Simone Beriad (11:00):
Chris Williams (11:01):
And, yeah. And, we go that way. It could be a group of girls on a hens day that just want to, you know, the cutesy… Yeah.
Simone Beriad (11:07):
Yes, that, absolutely. I am so looking to see it, because I-I’m imagining myself on the alpaca. [laughs]
Chris Williams (11:13):
No, you’re not riding it, you’re not riding it-
Simone Beriad (11:15):
I am not riding, I’m not riding it. Okay. That would been interesting. So are you gonna- yeah, this-this is, um, this is a good challenge, I like it. I like it, and we are really close to the Adalaide, it takes, like, you know, half an hour?
Chris Williams (11:26):
Well it’s, no, a little bit more. We’re 60 kilometers from-from the, uh, center of Adalaide. So, we’re positioned only f-fifteen kilometers from the McLaren Vale wine district, we’re 20 kilometers, further south is the Southern Ocean, so-
Simone Beriad (11:40):
Chris Williams (11:40):
You got the harbor and, just, a beautiful, beautiful area. Uh, where our farm is situated is in a valley in the, uh, top of the range of hills and so, we’re generally six to eight degrees cooler than what it is in Adelaide.
Simone Beriad (11:53):
Chris Williams (11:53):
And so, you know, during Summer it’s very rare we get a very hot day, uh, however, during Winter it-it does cold. Yeah.
Simone Beriad (12:01):
Can we, like… [inaudible 00:12:02] Yeah. I am from Italy, I’ve no problem with that.
Chris Williams (12:05):
Simone Beriad (12:05):
You know, Australians I’m not used to, but this-this is okay.
Chris Williams (12:08):
When we build our facility, we’ll have a lovely, big fire anyways, so.
Simone Beriad (12:11):
Chris Williams (12:12):
And then, uh, what we’re also looking at doing is, uh, doing some accommodation around the lake as well.
Simone Beriad (12:18):
Chris Williams (12:18):
And so, that, uh, people can come in and-and stay, purely just to get away from it. They want to, uh, have the experience of, you know, taking-getting a-uh, cheese plate and a bottle of wine sitting amongst 500 alpacas. It’s all available for them.
Simone Beriad (12:36):
Well I think that is a very interesting project and I see that how you like the energy [inaudible 00:12:41] and the fact that you’ve been analyzing alpacas on their own and also creating all this [inaudible 00:12:47], is making quite, quite interesting to learn more and come to visit because it’s not really far away. When will we open? Do you have an idea when it will be possible?
Chris Williams (12:57):
Uh, accommodation, our accommodation will be up and running by the, hopefully, by the first of September.
Simone Beriad (13:02):
Chris Williams (13:03):
So that’s very much, uh, going ahead. Uh, the plans for our facility, uh, with the council at the moment and have had initial approval. So, we’re hoping that-that… I don’t know if I’m being unrealistic to say, I-I’d like to have it open by Christmas. But, um, yeah. We’re very much moving ahead with it. We see, uh, big opportunity, or big demand for local tourism.
Simone Beriad (13:27):
Chris Williams (13:29):
Um, and so, you know, we have, uh, our property is one kilometer of the main Victor Harbor Road frontage, so we have, you know, 10,000 cars every day drive past and we’ve become a landmark, “Oh you’re the-the big alpaca farm.”
Simone Beriad (13:42):
Chris Williams (13:42):
Um, and so, now to-to actually be able to bring people in, and-and let them share the-the-the experience of what we’ve been developing and what we’ve been doing here and, and, uh, everything else. So, yeah, it’s-it’s very exciting. Not just for us, but also for, um, you know, the-the potential tourism that’s going to come onto the property.
Simone Beriad (14:02):
Absolutely! And the people around, like, you’re gonna open a lot of workspace for people that’s working in the areas, living in the areas, so it’s a great opportunity for the community.
Chris Williams (14:12):
Yeah. We’re also, once we’re-we’re also negotiating with, uh, also a gin distillery to, uh, be here. Uh, we will also have a-a wine label represented here.
Simone Beriad (14:23):
Chris Williams (14:23):
So it’s not just, you know, the alpacas. So, we’re-we’re hoping to be able to appeal to, you know, all people that-that come through. Even having some, uh, talks with the possibility of a brewery here, as well. So, um, and then once we get that organized, we… Because we have such a beautiful setting here, we’re looking at, you know, having different festivals and, and everything else and that here so that we can really, you know, bring people to the property. And as I’ve said, it’s such a beautiful location with the lake-
Simone Beriad (14:51):
Chris Williams (14:51):
… and then, everything. It’s, um, yeah.
Simone Beriad (14:54):
Perfect! Wow! I was not expecting that! I-I actually… Yes! Lovely! Perfect! So, Chris. Thank you very much for being with us on, uh, on the AgriAdventures channel and the Royal Adelaide, uh… For, uh, who’s following us, you’re gonna find Chris at the Ambersun Alpacas, definitely. On the website, we have a website?
Chris Williams (15:16):
We have a website, it’s, uh, needs a lot of updating and so forth. But this is something that’s in progress, uh, at the moment. But, certainly. If they look at, uh, Ambersun Alpacas, there is a website there, there’s contact details there, my phone number is there, that they can get in contact with me directly.
Simone Beriad (15:33):
Chris Williams (15:33):
Simone Beriad (15:34):
Also they can find you–sorry for interrupting you, on, uh, Willunga Farmers Market.
Chris Williams (15:38):
Yes. Every Saturday morning, um, at Willunga Farmers Market, which I do arrange selling the alpaca meat, which we have a range of about 10 samples, so that you can come along and try. Um, at the Adelaide Farmers Market at the Showgrounds every Sunday morning, as well.
Simone Beriad (15:51):
Wow! So no excuse, no excuse! Okay, thank you people following us! Thank you, Chris, for being with us!
Chris Williams (15:58):
Thank you for having me.
Simone Beriad (16:01):
See you on the next interview at the AgriAdventures channel.