Reporoa based Murdoch Agricultural Contracting, owned and operated by couple Harry Murdoch and Samantha Parker, started by targeting a niche.
To make the most of such investments, it goes without saysing that the production of high yielding uniform crops is the main way to ease that high investment pain.
Pollensmart, designed and built in New Zealand and covered by global patents, is an interesting development in the mechanical pollination of orchards.
Built around a heavy-duty galvanised steel chassis, a PTO-driven fan unit delivers an air blast from four pollen blower outlets positioned about 80cm apart. These push turbulent air to all areas of the crop canopy. In the same operation, a vacuum inlet at the rear of the machine, 'recovers' any surplus pollen and reintroduces it into the blower line.
The fact that pollen typically costs around $5,000/kg, with a coverage of 2ha to 4ha per kg, means that accuracy of application is vital. In the case of Pollensmart, the integral pollen dispenser maintains an accurate feed rate to the blower assemblies. This helps to reduce wastage, while the process is also said to promote bee activity during the process.
Trial results suggest that use of the unit can help deliver up to $10,000 per hectare increases in revenue. This is largely driven by perfect pollination achieving 88% of fruit suitable for export, compared to the more 47% achieved with "bees only" pollination.
The manufacturer says kiwifruit has a very short window for optimal pollination, often only lasting a few days. Using the machine, typically with three applications, allows a grower to pollinate flowers at the optimal time.
This helps create a more evenly pollinated crop and consistently sized fruit.
It is available in single or double set-ups, to cover 3.5m wide or 5m wide orchards, respectively.
"Pollensmart takes away the uncertainty of waiting for a contractor to arrive in that critical time window," explains Wilco Klein-Ovink from the company.
"It also only need tractor of around 30hp to do the job. However, overall success is achieved by an accurate forward speed of 5km/h and the PTO running at a constant 440 rpm."