Thursday, 16 July 2020 06:55

International contacts helped NZ packhouse

Written by  Peter Burke
James Trevelyan leaned on his international contacts to help his business manage and thrive through the Covid crisis. James Trevelyan leaned on his international contacts to help his business manage and thrive through the Covid crisis.

The experience of PSA – and the way Italy and China dealt with Covid-19 – shaped how Trevelyans Packhouse proactively manages their way through the Covid pandemic.

Te Puke-based Trevelyans is one of the largest packhouses in the Bay of Plenty. The company packs kiwifruit, avocados, limes and feijoas. It also provides orchard management services.

Managing director James Trevelyan told Hort News that when word of Covid first came on the radar, his mind immediately turned to 2010, when he was in a meeting with the then boss of Zespri discussing what was happening with PSA in Italy. He says when PSA arrived in the country later that year, he had a good understanding of what was needed in NZ.

Fast forward to January 2020 and Trevelyan was talking to a friend in Italy about the Covid-19 crisis who was involved in the kiwifruit sector in that country.

“When I put down the phone, I quickly realised that we needed to act now and talked this through with my team,” he says. “From then on, I kept in contact with this friend to learn how the Italians were dealing with the situation. I also had a friend in London to keep me briefed on the situation in Europe.” 

The other person who also helped Trevelyan more effectively manage the Covid crisis was a Chinese cleaning lady at the packhouse.

“She was from Wuhan, the centre of the epidemic, and I started asking her about how her family were dealing with the pandemic,” he told Hort News. “Later, I made contact with a Japanese man and the information that these people provided helped shape how we dealt with the crisis.”

Trevelyan says social distancing was a problem, but screens were erected to protect staff and there was a strong emphasis on meeting hygiene requirements. He admits that production at the packhouse ‘creaked and groaned’ during Alert level 4. However, he says in the end they got through the crisis better than many others.

Trevelyan estimates that he spent $500,000 dealing with Covid-19. This included obtaining extra labour, screens and tents and extra hygiene facilities.

“But I am just so happy and relieved that we have been able to work and be relatively Covid free,” he says.

Finding workers, challenging 

James Trevelyan says his company has an excellent health and safety manager who is very thorough and, at an early stage, started preparing to deal with Covid when it arrived in NZ. 

“For example, our smoko room normally can hold 200 people, but with the restrictions on social distancing it could only hold 40 people – so we had to hire tents to cater for staff,” he told Hort News.

“To add to the problems, in alert levels 4 and 3 we lost all our older workers. 

Meanwhile, about half of our overseas workers, whom we normally employ, could not get into NZ and other staff had also left. So, we then started recruiting locally.” 

Many of these new workers came from the tourism sector, others were drivers and some from professional backgrounds. But this was no easy ride, Trevelyan says. 

Some of those recruited, he says, lasted just a day and at one stage the turnover was about 100 a day.

“At one stage we had 1100 people on the site every day, but we were paying about 2000 people a week.” 

He says the retention of staff got better as the crisis went on and people realised that having a job was important.

More like this

Dairy demand tipped to firm

Demand for dairy will firm over the next two years as  the global economy rebounds from Covid, says Westpac senior agri economist Nathan Penny.

The minister of zoom

Trade Minister Damien O'Connor says he and other trade ministers around the world will need to get used to developing relationships via Zoom.

Virtual CV valuable tool

With a 12-year history of recruiting specialised operators from overseas to service the agricultural contracting industry, Hanzon Jobs typically brings in around 200 people to New Zealand each year from the UK and Ireland.

Featured

 

Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

Based around an all-electric vehicle that mows and feeds, Exos is light weight and uses soil friendly technology, that can be exploited throughout the growing season. Design to work 24/7 as feed requirements change, the system places no constraints on labour or time, while it is also designed to work in tandem with the Lely Vector automatic feeding systems.

In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

Goat farming on the rise

Dairy goat milk processors, looking to increase their supplier numbers, are helping to drive interest among farmers in New Zealand’s growing goat milk industry.

TB fight goes on

The total number of TB-infected herds in Hawke’s Bay has risen to 20, following the recent reclassification of a new herd in the Waitara Valley.

Milking cows behind the barbed wire

A recent field day at the Waikeria Prison Farm near Te Awamutu offered farmers the chance to see what goes on “behind the wire”, alongside introducing the idea of farmers employing offenders near the end or after the term of their sentences.

National

Historic day for Māori hort

A crowd of more than 150 people turned out at a recent field day at Ngai Tukairangi Trust’s kiwifruit orchard at…

Lack of labour

New Zealand kiwifruit growers are nervous about having enough people to work in the industry during the coming months, according…

Machinery & Products

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Tough gig!

OPINION: This old mutt has a fair amount of sympathy for Ag Minister Damien O’Connor with the two associate ministers…

Cow killer

OPINION: The Hound was not surprised to hear well-known end-of-the-world doom-merchant ‘Dr’ Mike Joy is still as joyless as ever…

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter