Feb 24, 2018New Zealand heats up, showcases orchards for IFTA visit
The International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) New Zealand Study Tour focused for two days on the Hawke’s Bay region of an industry largely focused on export markets, particularly to Asian Pacific consumers, for its tree fruit products.
IFTA’s visit came as local news reports indicated the 2017-18 summer has been New Zealand’s hottest on record, with a meteorologist stating a particularly tropical week in Auckland, New Zealand was comparable to living in Fiji.
Data released Feb. 24 indicated temperatures were running 2.3˚ C above average. The warm temperatures were reflected in some of the fruit crop impacts expressed by growers throughout the region.
After a stunning group visit to 1,300-foot Te Mata Peak above the Heretaunga Plains, the following orchard and tree fruit production stops were made.
The New Zealand Plant and Food Research center showcased Future Orchard Production Systems (FOPS), a tree wall fruiting approach touted by Stuart Tustin, the center’s Group Leader, Fruit Crops Physiology.
The center features 60 staff, modern purpose-built laboratory facilities and 60 hectare of research orchards. Areas of research include: breeding science, bio protection technologies, plant pathology and mycology, applied entomology, postharvest fresh foods, crop and fruit production systems, soil, water and environment focus and systems modeling.
CEO Brett Ennis led a tour of the business established to globally commercialize the new apple and pear cultivars bred in New Zealand by Plant and Food Research (PFR) in a manner that assists Australian and New Zealand growers to achieve sustainable profits from the new cultivars.
Complimentary Northern Hemisphere commercialization is part of the strategy to provide market demand, achieve critical mass and brand investment. Prevar exclusively contracts with PVR to undertake the apple and pear breeding with Prevar determining the cultivar branding themes.
Prevar is a joint venture company with three shareholders: APAL Apple and Pear Australia, Pipfruit New Zealand and PFR.
The tour stop focused on the new varieties, breeding process, cultivar and brand development, and licensing.
Apple varieties include Piqa Brand Fruits, Piqa Boo and Reddy Robin. Apple varieties feature Smitten, Rockit, Lemonade, Sweetie, Dazzle and Cherish.
The Paynter family started growing apples and stonefruit in 1862 out of Stoke, Nelson. IN the early 1900’s, the Paynters moved their growing business to Hawke’s Bay. Five generations later, the Paynters are still growing apples and stonefruit on the family orchards in Havelock North, Hawke’s Bay.
Long-time IFTA members John (former IFTA Grower of the Year), son Paul and their family hosted the visit that included lunch and a look at the operation’s harvest and production equipment.
The stop focused on mechanization with a spotlight on mechanical hedging and sprayer technology.
At the Rockit apple stop, tour goers viewed the miniature apple that had a worldwide launch in 2010 from Hawke’s Bay. Rockit apples are sweet, crunchy and “distinctively fresh.” The fruit, which naturally grows small and features a red blush color, originated by crossing Gala and Gala Splendor.
The stop focused on the unique aspect of the Rockit apple, including harvest (apples are small), specialized packing facilities, specialized containers and snack market penetration, particularly in Asian regions.
Orchard operations manager Ben James oversaw the orchard visit with fruit at or near harvest.
Postharvest manager Andrew Mason, Rockit Global LTD, gave an overview of the operation’s packing shed shop.
T&G Global (originally Turners and Growers) began in Auckland, New Zealand as a fruit auction business in 1897.
EnzaFruit Products is the U.S. subsidiary for T&G Global. T&G is a BayWa company.
T&G Global employs approximately 1,500 permanent and 2,500 seasonal workers. It has more than 17 offices in 12 countries. Its customer base is in more than 60 countries.
The tour stop focused on orchard systems, including a FOPS trial, production economics, Envy and Jazz varieties.
Host Greg Taylor told of how Freshco was founded in 1989, as an Auckland-based export business. The operation has steadily grown to include orchards, packing houses, cold storage and offices in key growing locations through New Zealand.
Apple varieties include the standards plus Breeze, Sonya, Cheekie, Royal Joburn, New Zealand Beauty, New Zealand Queen and New Zealand Rose.
Taylor showcased the orchard’s intensive organic apple production.
Continuing the theme of intensive organic apple production, Bostock New Zealand is the first commercial and largest organic apple producer in New Zealand and has been growing premium organic apples since 1996.
Bostock has 1,200 acres of BioGrow-certified land and is responsible for marketing and exporting 85 percent of New Zealand’s organic apple crop to the world. Bostock also produces and sells apples grown in conventional production systems.
Along with standard apple varieties, recently planted selections include N Z Prince (Kingsbeer Red), Posy (TCLC), TCL40, Opal and Premier Star.
BioGrow NZ, which is accredited with the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement, aims to improve long-term soil structure and fertility, encourage biological cycles, maintain genetic diversity, avoid pollution, and cycle organic matter and nutrients within the production system.
Chief Operating Officer Richard Hill led an overview of Mr Apple’s operations that include 15 orchards in and around Hastings, Napier and central Hawke’s Bay. Mr. Apple employs more than 2,200 people – 340 full time and up to 1,600 seasonal workers.
In addition to standard varieties, Mr Apple produces and sells Early Queen, NZ Beauty, NZ Queen, NZ Rose, Diva, Posy, N Z Prince and Smitten.
The stop focused on applications of the Billy monitoring system, a proprietary intensive orchard management system on older orchards with Fruitcraft’s new varieties.
Mark Erickson oversees the fourth-generation family-owned and operated fruit production business he runs with his wife Leah in partnership with Mark’s parents, Peter and Lesley Erickson.
Mark is director of Waima and the operations manager, running the family business in conjunction with is wife, who manages and controls administration, regulation, compliance and all the financial aspects. They are assisted by Mark’s father, Peter.
Waima grows seven varieties of apples on 45 acres: Pacific Beauty, Pacific Queen, Pacific Rose, High-Colored Fuji, Galaxy (Royal Gala) and Braeburn, including Aurora and Jazz.
Each block on each of Waima’s three orchards is grown to meet market demands and expectations, hence size is variety dependent, whereas color, taste and crunch are required on all blocks.
Waima Fruit also produces Zespri “Green” and “Gold” Kiwifruit.
In 2006, Waima Fruit was awarded World Fruit Grower of the Year by World Fruit Journal and The Grower. The award portrayed the Waima team’s approach to producing high quality, sustainable produce.
The stop focused on precision execution in apple production and it was the only tour visit where tour goers entered a Kiwi block. The tour was limited to entering only one kiwi block to curtail the spread of Psa (Pseudomonas syringae pv. Actinidiae) around the country.
Following a leisure day in Napier, the IFTA New Zealand visit continues with the annual conference Feb. 26, with visitors for the second leg of the tour joining those already here.
Waima Fruit’s Mark Erickson oversees the fourth-generation family-owned and operated fruit production business. Photo: Gary Pullano