When Tanuja Sanders hands out samples of her exquisite olive oils to supermarket customers, little do they know they are engaging with an engineering mastermind behind some of Australia's most complex mining and water projects.
Her CV is staggeringly impressive, yet she spends her weekend serving samples of her Sathya olive-based products to customers in a bid to spread the word about the business she and her husband, Keith, run on the side.
The couple bought a 100-acre property near Bunbury in 1999 after falling in love with the area while building a power plant for Worsley Alumina.
“We built our dream home on the property in 2004 and then decided to plant over 2,500 olive trees between 2005 and 2007 over 25 to 30 acres purely for aesthetic reasons. By year 2010, these olive trees started bearing fruit,” Tanuja says.
“My friends and family call me a food chemist because I can whip out a scrumptious meal at a very short notice and can easily entertain guests in large numbers. Although I had never dealt with olives growing up, I soon became an expert in making table olives with spices that no one has ever used. I started developing a unique product range not just with table olives but also with infused olive oils and dukkah.”
Positive feedback from family and friends encouraged her to go into commercial production.
“In 2013, we became commercial as our oil production had
ramped up to four digit numbers,” she says.
“We entered our oil into the Royal Perth Show and won bronze medals. I was at that time working on the iconic Adelaide Desalination Project as a Project Manager for SA Water. Soon after, there was a downturn in mining, which made it hard for us as consultants to obtain contracts. That was just a boon in disguise for us because that gave both me and my husband time to work on our Olive Oil business, as that would give us sustainability in our lifestyle even through recession, provide healthy living not just for us but to the community, reduce the carbon footprint by planting more trees, create cash-flow for other local businesses such as bottling, packaging and offer local employment to the community.
“We released our first infused olive oils in the year 2014, which won many silver medals in the Royal Show. This was the start of our 'niche business' as we soon realised that customers preferred infused extra virgin olive oils over plain extra virgin olive oil because of the taste and ease in cooking. We started selling our products through local cellar doors and gourmet food outlets but this was not sufficient to sell all our produce."
Two failed attempts at exporting the product to India didn’t deter the duo who remained determined to further expand their business.
“Being engineers, we always improvise to increase productivity and efficiency, so we decided to install a 22kW solar power plant on our property that would further reduce our dependence on electricity grid and reduce the carbon footprint of our business model. In the year 2015, we developed our logo, website and new packaging and our full range of Infused Olive Oils. We again won silver medals for most of our oils at the Royal Show and I joined the WA Olive Council as a Board Member representing The Peel Region.”
The word Sathya means true in Sanskrit. “It is symbolic of the clean and green environment that our olive grove is based in and aligns with the core value of our business model which is sustainability,” Tanuja says. Sathya is stocked at Spudshed, Farmer Jacks, IGA, The Herdsman and The Crooked Carrot.