Planet Lighting a finalist in Mid North Coast Business Awards

Sinclair Park and Ben Iggulden displaying Planet Lighting products at Aqua Nor in Trondheim, Norway

Sinclair Park and Ben Iggulden displaying Planet Lighting products at Aqua Nor in Trondheim, Norway

It's not likely to impact Planet Lighting's robust revenues if they don't win gold in the 2019 Mid North Coast Business Awards, but it may be a tad embarrassing.

For those who don't know, Planet Lighting is one of Australia's decentralisation success stories, an advanced manufacturing and design company that relocated here from Melbourne in 1974.

From a factory tucked beside a duck pond on a suburban street in north Bellingen, it makes high-quality niche medical, architectural and aquaculture lighting products that are exported through distributors in 28 countries.

It's a major player both nationally and internationally, and it's also one of the shire's biggest employers, with 51 staff and an annual wages bill of about $3 million.

CEO Brett Iggulden said this is the first time he's filled in the forms to enter the regional business awards.

"I'm only doing it for the staff," he said. "We've had a few good years, so why not?"

Planet Lighting is a finalist in the 'Excellence in Business' and 'Excellence in Export' categories.

"Last year we exported 55 per cent of what we made; this year, it'll be closer to 70 per cent," Brett said.

He said most of those who enter the business awards are "terribly dependent" on the market in Australia, but Planet Lighting has always been export focused.

"Sure, I like to win hospitals in Australia and I like to sell our products in Australia - we have very good distributors here - but I really don't want to ever rely on it."

Currently, he has two people - his son Ben Iggulden, who heads up the aquaculture division, and lead designer Sinclair Park - showcasing Planet Lighting's products at the world's largest aquaculture technology exhibition, Aqua Nor in Trondheim, Norway.

Planet Lighting was one of the earliest manufacturers to embrace LED (light-emitting diodes) technology, after Brett attended an American trade show in 2002 and saw the first super high-powered LED lighting grade device.

I came back and I said, listen, that's it, that's the future for us. Let's change the whole way we think about lights.

Brett Iggulden

"I came back and I said, listen, that's it, that's the future for us. Let's change the whole way we think about lights.

"And within five years, we'd employed people who were more electronic than previously, and we had a range of LED fixtures that were designed from the ground up."

Impressed by the precision and energy efficiency of digital LEDs, by 2008, they'd switched to them completely.

Moving into the aquaculture sector - particularly the salmon farming industries of Tasmania, Chile, Canada and Norway - was part of that revolution.

The vast majority of farmed salmon in Australia now grows within caged lighting systems manufactured by Planet Lighting, which encourage the fish to put on condition without going through the sexual maturation that turns the flesh grey.

Planet Lighting also has a small but growing share of the huge salmon farming market in Norway.

Last year, the Bellingen factory supplied Norway with over $3 million worth of aquaculture lighting, and when Ben and Sinclair return from Trondheim, Brett expects to see another surge in sales.

"If it's like the last one, they'll come back with more orders than we can make," he said.

Winners in the Mid North Coast Business Awards will be announced on September 13.