Wednesday, 12 August 2020 08:25

Another bumper year ahead?

Written by  Sudesh Kissun
Avocado NZ chief executive Jen Scouler says an increased focus from consumers on health and wellness has contributed to the industry’s growth. Avocado NZ chief executive Jen Scouler says an increased focus from consumers on health and wellness has contributed to the industry’s growth.

Avocado growers are looking forward to another bumper year despite the global economic uncertainty.

NZ Avocado says the 2020-21 season crop is “looking very good on the trees”, with an expected 10-15% increase in volumes.

Last season, avocado growers received $154 million for their crop, a $10m increase over the previous season.

Exports rose 26% to 3.8m 5.5kg trays. Asian markets including Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan received 35% more volume, meeting the industry’s objective to grow volume to the region.

The New Zealand market sold a record 2.7m trays worth over $50m demonstrating kiwis growing love of the wonderfully healthy avocado.

For the first time in a number of years there was no break in avocado supply as growers held on to one crop while the new crop matured on the trees. This also avoided the spike in pricing that often accompanies the lower supply but increasing demand.

NZ Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular says avocados have 19 vitamins and nutrients, including those necessary for a healthy immune system. 

“An increased focus from consumers on health and wellness has contributed to the growth we have seen in New Zealand avocado consumption,” she says.

The industry is aware of the demand by consumers and customers alike to know about the impact avocados have on the land, environment and people. 

Scoular says the industry is developing a sustainability strategy, hosting a series of stakeholder workshops around the avocado growing regions. 

“Many avocado growers are passionate about taking care of New Zealand and want to see their orchards contributing positively to environmental, economic and social sustainability in their communities and regions,” says Scoular.”

Investment into new plantings continued last year with over 120 new avocado properties registered during the year ending May 2020.

New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association chair Tony Ponder says New Zealand’s avocado industry is in a position of growth and development. 

“The continued investment demonstrates real confidence in the New Zealand avocado industry. Many new growers are attracted to the industry because of the strong growth plans within the industry, and the confidence from the collaborative structured approach but also seek to produce a healthy product, while looking after the land.” says Ponder. 

The 2020-21 crop was affected by drought. 

“The drought will have put some stress on the trees, so many will have welcomed the recent rain,” says Scoular.

New Zealand is the ninth largest international avocado exporter globally. There are over 4,000 hectares of avocado trees planted in New Zealand, primarily in the Bay of Plenty and Northland.

Post-Covid recovery

Avocado NZ says it’s working with other hort sector growers on New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery. 

“Avocados are a part of this collective and are working with key government departments to deliver an industry led, government enabled strategy,” says Scoular.

 This follows the work completed during lockdown between horticulture and government to ensure that the industry could keep growing and harvesting so that consumers within New Zealand and overseas customers, could continue to buy fresh fruit and vegetables. 

“I am excited by the potential of this new level of industry-government collaboration,” she says.

“This strategy recognises the opportunity to create sustainable value by working together as we grow, transport and market our safe, ethically-produced and healthy food to consumers in New Zealand and around the world.”

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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.

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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.

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