An “OrchardSaver” for the Farm?

Posted By HBFA | November 20, 2023

When looking for solutions for future success of your orchard business, have you considered the benefits of establishing a KiwiSaver type fund / account for your farm for testing techniques for future resilience? Establishing an ‘OrchardSaver’ cash fund on hand for testing differential techniques within your growing system provides an excellent framework for assessing what works and what doesn’t and enables you to tailor to the level of risk you are comfortable in taking. R&D expenditure may also provide tax benefits and should be discussed with your accountant.

The first step is to undertake an analysis on your business and consider what is working well and perhaps what isn’t working as well? Are there particular aspects of inefficiencies? an interesting article that suggested a change, but the risks of block wide change lie outside of your risk appetite or financial means? or simply observed something that may be contrary to convention? Identify these, make a list, and include annotations on what changes are worth testing so that when the opportunity presents itself, a ready-made test is waiting.

With list in hand, the inevitable question is how do I fund these initiatives? Ideally, all test and trial work should be funded with cash as borrowing to complete experiments is counterintuitive where there is no guarantee of outcome. At a recent symposium John King, a Holistic and Regenerative Farming Advisor from Canterbury recounted advice that farmers and growers should be putting 6% of their income into cash fund for testing and trialling new technologies as a toys and tests slush fund. Looking at this in a different context, you pay yourself and staff a KiwiSaver contribution for future resilience, so what better way to plan for the future of the business than paying an OrchardSaver contribution to the business for future investment!

The final step is to look at implementing trials within your system to test where improvements can be made. Back your own observations made here, no one else has the wealth of extensive observations of change within a system as the grower themselves, over multiple seasons, and multiple crop years. Anything that you have observed as making a positive (or negative) change can be tested here to provide certainty including:

Differential treatments;

Sensitivities to spray timings;

Differential crop loadings; or

Hot composting of green waste.

Investment in future resilience of the farming system is as important as planning for your own financial wellbeing in retirement.
We are in a time of rapid change and will need to do things differently to ensure success in the future as well as looking after the here and now. As Aristotle said, “well begun is half done”, so next review of your business operation and budget, take the time to set up plan to identify, finance, and implement tests and trials so that you are better placed for technology and change.

Carl O’Brien

Agfirst Consultants (HB) Ltd


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