The Bunker coworking Space History
David Burston was the Pitch Master at theSPACE, the original innovation centre in Cairns started by Troy Haines. During the four years he built up a large network in the entrepreneur field and enjoyed the energy and the creativity of the work environment.
In November 2020 the Tafe needed their rooms and theSPACE closed down after 8 years of being the frontrunner in the start-up space. David then worked from home but after a few months he decided it was time to get an office.
In March 2021 he looked at the beautiful Art Work Space offices, but shied away because of the cost, and found the cheaper offices were like chook cages, with little natural light or parking and often on noisy streets.
The Bunker coworking Space
David looked at the bottom section of a Queenslander, the price was right, plenty of room 150m2, but it needed a heap of work. Surrounded by rubbish and weeds and needed painting, carpentry and paving, it was a roughie with potential. He called his mentor in, Christine Clifford to check that a mental institution was needed for David, or it really did have potential. However so as to not set expectations too high we decided “The Bunker” was an apt name.
Christine gave it the thumbs up and has been a tremendous support ever since. It took five weeks of painting, carpentry, paving and gardening to polish the building and surrounds, but it has come up beautifully.
David Burston’s Background
David started off work life in mixed farming in NE Victoria for 25 years, including; earthmoving, hay contracting, irrigation design, high efficiency shearing shed design and building, horse and sheep dog training and was a private pilot.
Peppermint Industry and Vegetables
He had a stint taking the Peppermint Industry from the Agriculture Departments test phase to the production phase, upgrading equipment and installing a 300hp boiler for a shell and tube condenser. He also help run the vegetable growing trials, trying to find industries for the tobacco farmers to use as alternate crops. With the help of a 44gal drum of grappa he lubricated his way into producing 100,000 broccoli and cauliflower plants, but that is another story.
Aquaculture – Yabbies
David has over twenty years experience in Aquaculture, initially breeding growing and marketing Yabbies, with two partners they were able to lift the price of what was perceived as a muddy crustacean worth $5/kg to a gourmet local and export product worth over $20/kg. This was achieved through designing a drip room system where the yabbies could be held in hibernation for more than six months, allowing the chefs to put yabbies on the menu and know that their entire 3 months menu requirements were waiting patiently for them.
He designed and built a fully automated, pneumatically powered, yabby hatchery with 1,400 revolving aquariums, producing over one million juveniles a month with less than two labour units. This was over twenty times more efficient than the top research institutions and commercial farms. The business crash of the late 80’s dried up the funding and the business was sold.
Aquaculture – Fish
At Condobolin he partnered with two mates to recover a large fresh water fish breeding operation for Golden and Silver Perch, Catfish and Murray Cod. In those days computers had blue screens and you need multiple cups of tea per small down load file. After delivering live fish to the Sydney market at 4am David would spend time at the fisheries research library and speed scan as many article as possible and photo copy the interesting ones, driving home with hundreds of photocopies to read on the farm.
One article was on Malaria in Africa, and it mentioned that malaria is synchronised to the Luna cycles. When the moon is full it comes over the horizon about an hour after sun set. Plankton is light sensitive, so it migrates to the surface looking for light, and when the full moon comes up the mosquito larvae swim up, have a huge feed and come out of the water and hatch with a full belly of food. This principle was applied to the Silver Perch fish breeding and we reduced the fingerling ponds needed from 15 to 20 ponds, many with poor results, to just three ponds which each produced a bumper crop and gave the farm more fingerlings than it had ever produced.
The winters were too cold at Condobolin for fish growth so the operation was not viable to grow out large quantities of Silver Perch. So the team took options on a large block of land north of Townsville with two disused prawn farms. A great idea but GBRMPA made it impossible to operate in drought years when the river mouths silted over.
Aquaculture – The Pacific
David headed off to the Marshall Islands to Rongelap, the Island next to Bikini Atoll that was just coming out of nuclear contamination and they wanted a sustainable industry. After much research, yellowfin Tuna fattening was selected as there was a depth of Australian expertise from the Bluefin Tuna Industry. The project ended up as a $150 million dollar project with humanitarian funding promised. The project was developed over six years with the support of a dozen scientists and fisheries operators.
The plan was for eighteen fish farms sequentially located across the Pacific, Milne Bay, Solomon Islands, Fiji and the Marshall Islands. All the infrastructure was based on locally made floating concrete pontoons and the big polar circle sea cages. The transport, processing and common desk selling in USA, Asia and Europe, ensure the profits flowed back to the place of production, on the condition that the became the funders of the next farm in the sequence. Turning normal fund receivers into profitable businesses funding providers. It was a massive project which took an eight hundred page spreadsheet to analyse the effect of market and input movements. But the GFC came along and that was the end of the humanitarian funding.
Cairns – Environmental Rehabilitation Quality Assurance and Motor Homes
When the Townsville aquaculture project crashed David realised it was time to get real and his feet on the ground. He open the paper and said “There is a job in here for me!” He ended up furniture removing three housefuls of heavy rainforest furniture which had to be carried up a spiral staircase. He got a whole new respect for furniture removers and a raging case of crutch rash.
Not to be put-off he repeated the procedure the next weekend. This time he found a truck driving job for a revegetation company. He scored an interview and at the end of the interview the owner said “Would you like to manage the Cairns or the Townsville operation?” The quickest biggest promotion David had every received, and he moved to Cairns.
He worked in the environmental industry for 18 months before deciding he was not cut out to be an employee and decide to go back into business for himself again. This time he had a chance meeting with a Quality Assurance business owner from the UK who wanted to open a branch in Cairns to service the shipping industry. So David became a qualified auditor as a part time business and ended up specialising in the Motorhome industry developing Quality Management Plans for two Cairns companies and a Melbourne company.
Cairns – Web Studio, Telemarketing and Fabric Structures
David teamed up with a partner and they opened a website studio plus a telemarketing centre first in Yorkeys Knob then in The Pier in Cairns. Fabric structures had been researched before going to the Marshall Islands, and while their sold two structures to the local contractor. On return he tried to sell a website to the manufacturer, who were Plymouth Brethren and they we not into technology, so he asked if he could put up a website to market the structures.
The Fabric Structure business grew at around 60% a year, and the partnership and the other businesses were dissolved in 2011. David restarted the fabric structure business until 2016 when he took a break, literally. He was putting up a structure for a friend ten hours drive up Cape York on a remote cattle station, when two days before Christmas 2017 he was putting in the last brace into the frame and he had a dehydration blackout and had a 5m fall. A 64 year old who thought he was 35, and totally inadequate equipment.
It took 15 weeks in hospital to repair a split pelvis, shattered elbow and all the muscles torn from the right shoulder. Plus a follow-up surgery when the steel across the front of the pelvis broke and the screw in the back started un-winding. After a total of 3 years he was back operating on all cylinders.
Cairns – Communication Training