Apple grower and exporter T&G Global is turning to automation to ease labour shortage woes during the harvesting season.
The company claims this shows strong growth in a year of uncertainty.
Chief executive Gareth Edgecombe says the results are down to the hard work and the ongoing transformation to improve T&G's underlying performance.
"It's been a year of extraordinary challenges, with the Covid pandemic uncertainty and volatility around the world. International lockdowns and changes to operating procedures affected the day-to-day running of our business, with other setbacks such as the closure of some international wholesale markets and complexities around the import and export of produce, providing other challenges.
"Despite this, our team showed a huge amount of resilience and adaptability, uniting under difficult and uncertain circumstances. The result is testament to their hard work.
Edgecombe says the 2020 result also follows a concerted transformations of the business during the past few years.
"While we still have a way to go, our strong underlying results demonstrate our strategy and performance is delivering."
The company's apples business had a particularly strong year, improving operating profit by 56%, from $33.5 million in FY19 to $52.1 million in FY20.
A 23% increase in the sales of T&G's New Zealand Envy apples saw the crop sell out prior to the arrival of northern hemisphere fruit.
"A sustained focus on harnessing the best genetics, building premium brands, delivering strong sales momentum in Asia and continually optimising its supply chain, all contributed to the strong result."
Meanwhile, the company's acquisitiion and integration of Freshmax New Zealand's fresh produce division in April 2020 saw the creation of T&G Fresh. Both businesses combined to deliver a revenue increase of $75 million, to $357.7 million in 2020.
To help fund further growth initiatives, including investment back into the business, T&G closed the year out strongly with the sale and leaseback of its Nayland Road post-harvest facility in Nelson for $50.5 million.
T&G Global chairman Klaus Josef Lutz says despite the pervasive challenges faced during the year; the company successfully built on the foundations laid over the last two years to deliver a strong profit result.
"In the context of so much uncertainty, and the impact of various one-off and climate-related factors, it is very pleasing to see a substantial improvement in T&G's underlying financial performance."
Edgecombe put the year's good result down to the work of the T&G team.