Explore, Grow & Thrive – It’s June already!

My grandfather used to say, things come in threes, and indeed the past few months have brought a trio of significant events for HBFA. As CEO, I frequently ponder what’s next, focusing on future possibilities and how to excel our industry. The challenges we face aren’t insurmountable; rather, we confront a persistent economic malaise with high inflation. Despite this, a promising future lies ahead. We navigate these changes with unwavering commitment, always looking forward to the bright prospects that lie ahead for Aotearoa.

Grow – HBFA Hawkes Bay Young Fruit Grower winner, Strategy session & Grower needs!

YFGOTY Winner: Grace Fulford Triumphs at Hawke’s Bay Young Grower of the Year!

We are thrilled to announce that Grace Fulford, T&G’s Quality and Compliance Manager, has won the Hawke’s Bay Young Grower of the Year award. Competing against seven other talented contestants, Grace’s dedication and expertise shone through, securing her the top spot. This marks the fifth consecutive year a T&G entrant has claimed this prestigious title. The runners-up were Leander Archer from Sunfruit and Jesse Wall from Mr Apple, securing second and third places respectively.

The two-day event tested contestants on a variety of industry-specific challenges, including machinery operation, irrigation, health and safety, orchard management, and public speaking. Grace impressed both judges and peers with her technical skills and confident presentations. Reflecting on her win, Grace said, “I’m stoked, absolutely thrilled. Growing up in horticulture on my family’s orchards, I’ve learned so much from my uncles and dad. This win is a culmination of those experiences.”

The event, now in its 19th year, is one of six regional competitions leading up to the National Young Grower of the Year finals in October. The national winner will then compete for the Young Horticulturist of the Year, organized by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture Education Trust. Brydon Nisbet, President of Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers, praised all contestants for their courage and determination, highlighting the promising future of the industry. He emphasized that the young growers’ resilience and leadership ensure a prosperous future for horticulture in the region.

A Special Thank You to Our Sponsors

We extend our thanks and gratitude to our generous sponsors whose support was crucial in making the event a success. Your contributions provided a platform for young horticulturists to showcase their skills and gain invaluable experience, fostering the growth of future industry leaders. Stay tuned to our social media channels for highlights from the competition over the coming weeks! Thank you once again for your support.

HBFA strategy session:

Recently, the HBFA team engaged in a two-day strategy session to refresh our focus and drive. Guided by Clare Reid Coaching and using the Emotional Culture Deck, we identified key emotions driving HBFA’s actions and underscored the importance of emotional awareness in fostering vulnerability, empathy, and deeper connections. For HBFA’s success, it is essential that the board and team feel connected, supported, open-minded, energized, and proud. Equally, our growers need to feel connected, proud, and involved. We identified key touchpoints in our grower journey, which include marketing/social media, our website, membership, emails/newsletters, one-on-one interactions, text updates, events, the Young Fruit Grower program, awareness through horticulture organizations, engagement surveys, and the AGM. These touchpoints emphasize the importance of connection, pride, and involvement for our growers.

Recently, HBFA organized a meeting at Twyford Hall on May 13th to discuss the increasing Hawkes Bay Regional rates. The meeting was attended by fruit growers, vegetable growers, wine growers, horticulturists, and other interested parties. Councillors who attended the meeting explained the proposed changes, which include a shift from a Land value to Capital value rating model. This shift would result in increased rates, despite 90% of ratepayers opposing the change. Additionally, there is a planned 19.6% rate increase, with the average rise on the Heretaunga Plains expected to be 40%. Some growers may face over 100% increases, which could significantly impact their financial situations. HBFA also submitted and addressed the council on these increases at the HBRC submission hearing in Napier on Wednesday the 29th of May. HBFA are partnering with NZAPI and HortNZ on Water (TANK) updates to come, so please watch this space!

Thrive – Cyclone Gabrielle 1 year, 4 months, 5 days on – HAG gets all Ai on it!

HAG (Horticulture Advisory Group) recently utilized the grower data obtained from the portal to create collaborative set of keywords (as indicated above) to provide an illustrative depiction of the challenges encountered by growers. Furthermore, we leveraged the data from the portal to generate an AI-portal data driven image that visually represents these issues (see above image). This shows the impact the cyclone had on growers using the portal.

Expanding on our brand awareness and digital initiatives:

Our commitment to enhancing the HBFA’s brand awareness and digital presence is part of a broader strategy to engage more deeply with our community and stakeholders. The website revamp is not just about aesthetics; it’s designed to provide a user-friendly platform where information is readily accessible, and communication with us is seamless. Our social media campaign will highlight the vital work of our growers, upcoming events, and initiatives that support the sustainable growth of our industry. These digital efforts complement our ongoing activities to advocate for and protect the interests of our growers, ensuring that the Hawke’s Bay region remains at the forefront of New Zealand’s fruit-growing sector. Opposite is a sneak peek of the new look.

Building Courage and Resilience in Children: Teaching children how to find their brave!

Join us for a night with Karen Young Thursday the 27th of June!

We are excited to announce an event sponsored by HAG, in partnership with HBFA, featuring the renowned speaker and consultant Karen Young. This special evening will take place on Thursday, the 27th of June, at 6.30pm and we are thrilled to have her here in Hawkes Bay for one night only!

We are offering our growers with children the opportunity to attend free of charge, with 50 tickets available on a first-come, first-served basis. Don’t miss this chance to gain invaluable insights and practical strategies to help your children thrive.

Karen Young is highly sought after for her work with schools, government bodies, and child and adolescent-focused organizations worldwide. During this event, she will share her expertise on cultivating courage and resilience in children. Her presentation will cover:

Please fill in the form below to reserve your ticket. We will get in touch with you shortly to confirm your attendance.

Event Details:

Date: Thursday the 27th of June

Time: 6.30pm till 9.00pm

Venue: Toi Toi events and arts centre – The Assembly Ballroom

Click here to register today limited seats available!

Mental Health and Resilience: A Cornerstone of Our Community Support

Recognizing the psychological impact of industry challenges, HBFA is committed to mental health and resilience. Confidential counselling sessions are available to our growers and their families, providing crucial support for managing stress and building resilience. Our dedication to mental health underscores our belief that true community strength lies in collective well-being. As we move forward, HBFA remains focused on embracing change, upholding core values, and fostering a supportive, resilient community, ensuring Hawke’s Bay remains a vibrant leader in New Zealand’s fruit-growing industry.

Reach out for support:

If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me, Callum Ross, at HBFA, or directly connect with Wanda Douglas at 021 1700 506 or wandspsychology@gmail.com. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and we’re here to support each other.

Warm regards,

Callum Ross

Chief Executive Officer & Chairman HAG (Horticulture Advisory Group)

Presidents Report

I need to start this report with writing about how awesome our HB Young Fruit Grower competition was earlier this month. Every year I say this was our best event /competition and again I say it – this was our best ever – many thanks to Bex and her team at Planit events for putting together such an outstanding couple of days of competition ending with the awards, speech and dinner event. Thanks to all who made this such an incredible competition especially to the contestants, judges, sponsors and of course the team here at HBFA who continually give of their time and commitment to help bring such an event to our industry. Special thanks to Barry O’Neil for facilitating the leadership panel on Friday afternoon. At the awards dinner we were honoured to have several dignitary’s attend which included the following


This year’s competition was extremely close – 7 out of the 8 contestants all won or came runner up of one of the awards on offer. But in the end, it was Grace Fulford from T&G who won this year’s HB Young Fruit Grower of the year with Leander Archer from Sunfruit coming in at second place. Well done to you both and to all the contestants who competed at this year’s event. Grace will represent HB and the National final which is to be held in early October here in HB, so we wish her all the best.

This year’s competition boasted 8 outstanding individuals from 6 different companies.                                                                                                                                                          To me the courage and determination shown by these young leaders reflect the resilience, strength and depth of our industry. I am confident that with young people like this coming up in our industry we will come out of the wake of last year’s cyclone with the ability to have an industry that will grow stronger, bigger, smarter and have a more prosperous future.

The night also saw HBFA present our prestigious Joe Bell Trophy award – this is for outstanding services to our industry. John Dine (JD) was a worthy recipient and it was a real pleasure to honour and award this to him.  His Industry career started in 1979, and 45 years later he is still involved in the fruit growing industry – well done JD.

The team at HBFA spent a couple of days in Taupo recently to look at what we have accomplished over the last year but also what our priorities need to be going forward for the short term and longer vision of the association. We have identified several areas of focus which we will begin to work towards, but we will also be sending out a survey in the next few months to gauge feedback from our members to see where and what they believe our key priorities should include.

Enjoy the quieter months we are in – take a break, rest up and enjoy yourselves, spend time with your family – There is more to life than the orchard and packshed.

Please Remember to reach out to Callum, myself or any of the executive team. We are here to assist or help you in any way.

Kia kaha

Brydon Nisbet

HB Fruitgrowers Association Newsletter

June 2024

The Mystery Creek Fieldays have finished for another year with Summerfruit NZ having a presence on the HortNZ stand alongside NZ Apples and Pears, Potatoes NZ and some of the team from HortNZ. NZPPI (NZ Plant Producers Incorporated) and Zespri were there as well, giving a bit of a presence for Hort in the great big Ag dominated event. This was an opportunity to chat with politicians, industry organisations and potential growers. There were discussions on how warm it has been, which gave an excuse to talk about winter chilling – it is that time of the year.

Summerfruit has eight weather stations on the Portal where winter chill information can be viewed. There is also an explanation of how three models are calculated. The model that best defines deciduous fruit crops in a temperate climate is Richardson Chill Units (RCU), with the negative checkbox turned on.

Over the past couple of weeks, we have experienced some unseasonally warm temperatures, with 26°C reported on the news, so accumulation must be poor, right? But what is the data telling us? Actually, the winter chilling is as good as it’s been for the past five years, as of 18 June.

Winter chill accumulation across Hawkes Bay from 1 May to 18 June 2024

Station RCU 2024 RCU 2023 Difference 2023 to 2024 5-year average
Bay View 505 166 227 278
Twyford 501 311 156 345
Pakowhai 446 222 118 328
Lawn Road 482 238 157 325
Ruahapia Road 477 206 166 311
Havelock North 491 266 150 341
Longlands Road 412 308 87 325
Te Aute 421 201 143 278


Winter chill accumulation is way up on last season and better than any of the past five seasons. Experience has shown that the earlier winter chill arrives, the larger the total is likely to be, as July and August are cold with normal accumulation the norm. There will always be a warm spell or two during winter, so the blips are nothing to get too concerned about.

Having a look at accumulation around the country, this pattern is being replicated, especially in northern regions. After all, we live in the same weather patterns. Central Otago always accumulates sufficient chilling. For reference, most of our crops require 700-800 RCU for good breaking of dormancy, which suggests that we are two thirds of the way there already. With a bit more rain to top up soil moisture, we could be looking forward to some of the metrics being in our favour. For apricot growers who use dormancy enhancers, decisions will need to be made soon with regards to application timing. Good chill accumulation will enable an earlier bud break in Hawkes Bay, meaning an earlier application of these products.

In other Summerfruit NZ news, we have a new team member, with Edwin Spenser staring a couple of weeks ago. Ed will be in Hawkes Bay for the tech field day on Tuesday 2 July, 1pm to 3pm, at Camelot Fresh Fruit Company Ltd packhouse and orchard, 44 Thompson Road in Twyford. Ed will also be at the networking dinner later in the day. Summerfruit NZ Mid Year Function | Hawke’s Bay Tickets, Tue 2/07/2024 at 6:00 PM | Eventbrite.

For those that haven’t head, Kate Hellstrom, will finish working for Summerfruit NZ in September. The Board have started looking for her replacement. Kate will be at the field day and evening function.

Congratulations to all participants in the Hawkes Bay Young Fruitgrower Competition. Three of them have experience in stonefruit, which reflects the wide range of fruit and vegetables that are grown on the Heretaunga Plains. The quality of event reflects really well on HBFA and all those who make it happen.

Winter pruning with Metrics

By Meg Becker

Winter pruning is arguably the most important time of year on orchard as it provides the opportunity to start fresh, clean the block up and set the tree up for next season’s crop.

Manipulating the tree at pruning helps to achieve specific crop outcomes including fruit size, fruit colour and fruit quality, as well as allowing you to influence downstream costs such as thinning, summer pruning and harvest.

It is important to understand your longterm goal for each block, as well having a sound understanding of what steps you are wanting to achieve over the next 12 months.

What is your crop target?  Are you trying to increase fruit size? Are you trying to reduce thinning costs?  Do you need to manage vigour, or are you trying to drive canopy growth?

Understanding this prior to carrying out your pruning allows you to alter the timing of pruning, and set instruction to target specific bud numbers, wood texture, light optimisation, and vigour response.  Pruning allows growers to manipulate carbohydrate partitioning in the tree to achieve a common goal.

Now the important question… what Metrics can be collected to help support educated decisions that will ensure pruning is achieving specific block targets and taking any guesswork out of growing.

The Metrics in order of importance/ease of collection:

They key to data collection is understanding within block variability and selecting trees/areas that represent it.

These metrics help growers make educated decisions giving confidence that the instruction sets the canopy up with the optimum outcome. Backing up your growing decisions with informed data helps to minimise the ‘gut feel’ mistakes, helping you to maximise your production, profit and price for the upcoming season.

Kia ora koutou,

What a great event the Young Fruitgrower of the Year was!   Our congratulations to all the competitors and especially to Grace for her outstanding achievements, and Dani for the great speech.

Many heartfelt thanks and appreciation to HBFA for putting this event together – it is a huge amount of work, but hopefully you feel rewarded by the awesome turn out on Friday night as well as a great vibe on Thursday.  Time and effort put into celebrating and supporting our young emerging leaders, is the very best way to show them they are in a vibrant and future focussed industry, and hopefully inspire them to forge successful careers for themselves and their whanau.

The winter is a busy time for EIT, Level 3 students have completed the growing environment course and are working their way through botany, understanding plant structures and processes underpin the pruning courses.  They have soil modification practical to complete.   Level 4s have completed their first course as well, and are almost through sustainable crop production with Chris Thorman, our Diploma program co-ordinator.

The government has committed to funding the Apprenticeship Boost funding, but there are several caveats.  From 2025, apprentices will only be eligible for their first year (ie Level 3 fruit production), and only ‘key’ industries will be funded.  That information has yet to be released, but we will be working hard to ensure horticulture remains on that list.  Much like last year, we are not sure on course fees at this stage for 2025, but we will be starting a Level 3 cohort at the end of  July to pick up students that have completed Certificate in Primary Industries this year, whilst we know we have reduced fees.

Steven and I are out visiting managers this month, and really enjoy the opportunity to catch up face to face to discuss your workers progress, but our doors are always open to any suggestions about training you may have, at any time.

Noho ora mai,  Clare, Steven, Chris and Warren.

We were staring down the barrel of an extended dry period after April became the third successive month of below normal rainfall.  The region had less than half of average April rainfall and it had been a similar story in March and February.  Soil moisture levels were well below median levels for the month, particularly for areas south of Tangoio. The Bridge Pa site was particularly low and had fallen into the lowest 10th percentile of readings in the site’s record for the time of year.  April’s daytime temperatures had been above average and overnight temperatures near normal.  The lack of rain for three months meant that both river flows and groundwater levels were feeling the pinch.

Two-thirds through May and the picture was looking much the same.  The Heretaunga Plains had received less than 10% of May’s average rainfall.  How the tables turned in just a couple of days.  The Plains jumped to 171% of the long-term average and the region to 154%, with a few days of May to go.

We are exiting an El Niño phase and entering neutral conditions but there’s the possibility of us later transitioning into a La Niña phase.  Despite this, the seasonal forecast models still persist with a predominant westerly flow for winter, based on a prediction of higher than normal pressure across New Zealand and lower than normal south of the country.  Sea temperatures along our coast are currently near normal for the time of year.  All of this results in a rainfall forecast of near or below average rainfall for the winter season and temperatures that are near or above normal.  The recent wet few days might be a harbinger of what we’ll get from a La Niña to come – hopefully not.

All the best,


Presidents Report:

The 2024 harvest season is over – a relief for many. Most growers will be happy with the way it went, weather was good, there didn’t appear to be any labour shortage issues and fruit was of good quality. Pest and disease incursions will be problematic for some key overseas markets. Putting all this aside, fruit growing (in its current state) is still a very difficult industry to be involved in. The margins are very narrow and even uneconomical in some instances. With increased costs in every area of our businesses we need to take a good hard look at what we are growing, our variety mix and the management of on-orchard efficiencies.

HBFA’s core team are heading to Taupo this week for a 2-day strategy retreat to re-set and look at how we can better serve our growers – especially in the current environment. The association is in a new season – We are 125 years old this year, a lot has changed. Ten years ago, everyone on the HBGA committee were individual growers running their own business, we now have only 4 growers who own their own growing business and 2 of them also have full time jobs working for other entities. We have a great team of men and woman on our board who add real value to HBFA. I also want to thank the large corporates who support their employees being part of HBFA and allowing them time off at times to help serve the wider growing community. Part of our strategy session in Taupo is to re-look at our constitution. There is new legislation in place for Incorporated Societies. With this in place now we need to amend our constitution to fit in with the law changes. At the same time our rules need up-dating as many are not fit for purpose in today’s fruit growing environment. We will keep our members informed of the potential changes as these will need to be voted on.

Last week HBFA hosted a meeting with growers to discuss the Regional Councils proposed rates increase. No one from HBRC’s management side came to present their case to us (invitations were sent out) 4 councillors came to talk through the issues – some for and some against the increase. One Hundred percent of our growers who turned up on the night were going to put submission into the council with a clear “NO” we are against the increase. Callum’s CE report will give more of the details around the proposed increase.

On the 6th&7th of June we will be hosting our HBFA Young Fruit Grower of the year competition. Tickets are on sale now so please hurry and book your tables or seats for the awards dinner night. This will be a great night where we support and celebrate our young up and coming leaders of our industry, and a night that we get to honour HBFA’s chosen nominee for the prestigious Joe Bell Tropey – (Services to industry).

By now most growers should have received their voting papers for the HORTNZ levy renewal either by mail or email. Email voting was sent out by IRO last week on May 15th. I encourage you to vote and give HORTNZ your support. As I stated in one of my previous PR’s, HORTNZ do an outstanding job of supporting the needs of all growers around the Country. If you have any questions or have not received your voting papers or email feel free to contact me.

HBFA held our first golf day last Friday at the Waiheke golf course. I was unable to attend but heard it was a great event with everyone walking home with a prize. We plan to build on this year’s event in the future. The reason we hold events like this is to bring growers and industry people together in an environment away from the orchard, to meet new people and have some fun. We have other events planned further into the year so watch this space.

Ngā mihi

Brydon Nisbet

Explore, Grow & Thrive – It’s been a busy month!

The Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association (HBFA) continues to nurture and promote our growers and the broader industry. Just this Monday, we had the pleasure of accompany the EU Ambassador, Lawrence Meredith (pictured second from right) and his team on a road trip of Hawke’s Bay. It was a fantastic day filled with fruitful discussions (pun intended), and we left feeling more optimistic than ever about the future of our industry. It was like a diplomatic mission meets a field trip – complete with orchard visits, tasting sessions, and plenty of laughs. Our convoy of fruit enthusiasts zipping through the bay thoroughly enjoyed visiting different Packhouses including Mr Apple, Rockit and Apatu operations.

Ambassador Meredith truly understands the challenges, actively working to help our kiwi growers gain access to European markets. The NZ-EU FTA takes effect on May 1, 2024. Starting immediately, duties will be eliminated on 91% of New Zealand’s goods exports to the EU, increasing to 97% over the next seven years. This agreement will open significant opportunities for New Zealand businesses, granting access to one of the world’s largest trading markets. We are an agile team of producers here in Aotearoa, who need to continually innovative to remain competitive. Here’s to growing global connections and making our delicious Hawke’s Bay produce a hit across the EU!


Recently, we had a good turnout at the HBRC rate increase meeting on May 13th at Twyford Hall. The room was well attended, and we had some lively discussions, with a few key Councilors, thank you for those who did attend, we appreciated it.

During the meeting, we expressed our concerns about several increases in HBRC rates that could significantly impact our industry and community. While it’s hard to gauge how many submissions will be needed to trigger change, we remain hopeful that our voices will resonate. After all, we’re pretty good at making noise – especially when it comes to protecting grower livelihoods.

Some stats that you may find interesting.

We take immense pride in facilitating robust discussions, but sometimes we wonder if our voice is loud enough. Nevertheless, we remain committed to ensuring that our concerns are heard and addressed.

Thank you to everyone who attended and contributed to the discussion. Together, we’re stronger and more resilient, and we’ll keep making our voices heard – even if we have to resort to smoke signals next time!


We are getting closer to our main event for the year, with the Young Fruit Grower of the Year (YFGOTY) competition on the 6th & 7th of June and our dinner details below.

Join Us in Celebrating the Future of Fruit Growing! Get your tickets now!

The Young Fruit Grower of the Year event is an incredible opportunity to witness the talent, dedication, and innovation of the next generation of leaders in our industry. These young competitors represent the future of fruit growing, and by supporting them, we are investing in the continued growth and success of our industry as a whole.

By attending this event, you will not only have the chance to network with fellow industry professionals but also to show your support for these young competitors who are pushing the boundaries of what is possible in fruit growing. Your presence and support will undoubtedly inspire them to continue pursuing excellence in their careers.

We hope to see you there as we come together to celebrate the future of fruit growing.

Tickets available via Eventfinda https://www.eventfinda.co.nz/2024/young-fruit-grower-of-the-year-awards-evening/hastings

 or email us directly on events@hbfa.co.nz

Date: Friday the 7th of June

Time: 6.00pm

Location: Toi Toi arts and events center

Tickets: $155.74 each ($149.50 + $6.24 fees) per head / $1,534.88 for a table of ten. Tickets include a canape and drink on arrival, a three course meal and drinks throughout the evening.

If you would like to enter the Tug of war please see the enter from here


Consultation on the 2024-2034 Hastings (District Council) draft Long Term Plan closes Monday, May 27. Have your say!

This budget strongly focuses on infrastructure and proposes a 25% rate increase for the 2024/25 year. Of this, 8% is dedicated to recovering from Cyclone Gabrielle, while the remaining 17% will primarily fund sustainable infrastructure projects and service debt. To see the impact of the proposed rate increase on your property, click here.

Our rates are shared across a huge range of projects and facilities. To help you understand where the money goes, click here to see how each $1000 of rates is averaged out for an urban property.

Well-being: At the Heart of HBFA & HAG

The well-being of our community remains our priority. Considering the pressures of the industry and life’s uncertainties, we’ve introduced well-being support initiatives post-cyclone. These initiatives aim to provide crucial services to help our growers and their families navigate these challenges.

Reach out for support

If you or someone you know is struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact me, Callum Ross, at HBFA, or directly connect with Wanda Douglas at 021 1700 506 or wandspsychology@gmail.com. Remember, seeking help is a sign of strength, and we’re here to support each other.

As a collective, we can face any challenge and emerge stronger. Let’s stay safe, stay connected, and prioritize our well-being.

Warm regards,

Callum Ross

CEO, Hawke’s Bay Fruit Growers Association


Sarah de Bruin

May 2024

Winter stocktake of costs:

Do you know what you have spent this season? Cost awareness is vital to grower success at a time when input costs are high, and market conditions continue to fluctuate.

Use this post harvest and winter period, to sit down and cast your eye over your orchard’s numbers. Be sure to compare how they are stacking up against previous years and industry resources such as the MPI Pipfruit Orchard Monitoring programme.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of your own orchard business will help refocus for the new season and show areas or categories where you might be blowing out costs and others where you might be running well and efficiently. This then provides the background to enable good decision making and planning through the winter and into the next season.

Growers need to target quality fruit production, high yields of market targeted size, colour and high grade, in order to maximise available returns. Being cost efficient doesn’t necessarily mean cost cutting. For example, increasing productivity may sometimes involve increasing expenditure, however, ultimately this will provide you with more cartons to spread those costs over.

Some blocks warrant extra effort and potential cost, but in doing so can reward with a more profitable outcome. However, some do not. Understanding where your spending is going means you can make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.

A chance to indulge the inner orcharding nerd

LandWise held its annual conference in Havelock North last week. Sally Anderson, Summerfruit NZ’s research manager, and I attended. The focus was primarily on cropping (tomatoes, peas, beans etc) but the ideas and technology available cross over to tree crops, more often than not. While the toys and techniques have cross over, the recognition that we are all playing in the same environment, be that physical, legislative or consumer spaces, is just as important.

One of the free tools that was discussed is called Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ), developed by Cornell University. This is a grower support tool for measuring the overall impact of the sprays that are applied. It does this by assessing and giving a value to the potential effects on people and the food we eat, as well as on animals and the general environment.

The last A-Lighter-Touch (ALT) gaps meeting highlighted the huge amount of copper that stonefruit growers apply annually, in comparison to other product groups. As a result, this type of tool will help in understanding where we are at, and what then might be changed to help meet consumer expectations.

Other presenters spoke of the increasing global interest in products that induce, or up-regulate, plants’ own natural defence systems. We see this reflected in the global agchem companies buying biotechnology companies, thus integrating the knowledge of the smaller innovators and giving the innovators global reach.

A reflection of an integrated approach for bacterial control might look something like Actigard, followed by copper, followed by a bactericide, followed by AureoGold. During the LandWise presentations, we were told of the commercially available predators that are now available. To be fair, most of the progress has been made in the greenhouse industry but I suspect that it won’t stay there for too much longer. One of the lessons that’s been learned is that releasing two or tree species at once gives better control – much like using two fungicides to protect the efficacy of both.

The theme of the LandWise conference was Rebuilding Our Soils, a reference to Cyclone Gabrielle and the regenerative ag movement. Regen ag falls to some extent into the what the consumer wants type thinking. Regan ag has been in the pastoral/broadacre space for a while, with process crops now thinking about how the philosophies might be adopted. For permanent tree crops, we’ll need to think even harder about what changes could be beneficial. Of interest, McCains is now trialling paying growers a bonus for product that meets a number of biodiversity and environment markers. This circles us back to the EIQ tool, I talked about above.

Cyclone Gabrielle soil recovery work was reported on and a series of stonefruit orchards were presented as case studies. Much of this work is yet to finally tidied up, with one of the big questions being where to store the lessons learned so that they are readily available for the next time a storm of that nature comes visiting.

For the outside demonstration part of the conference, there were drones spraying crops, robots pulling weeders and sprayers, fancy lawnmowers, nozzle technology for travelling irrigators, and crimping rollers that might be used instead of mowers.

So as an industry, how are we fairing? Probably not to badly compared to some but we have a few areas that need attention. Many of these are being picked up by the ALT-Summerfruit NZ collaboration looking at softer chemistry, sorting out which bio stimulants might be efficacious, the understory plantings, and keeping a weather eye on market requirements. Keeping a weather eye on other product groups seems like an easy way to get some wins too.

In the vein of sharing ideas, we have a visiting expert in Hawkes Bay on Tuesday 2 July and an industry get together that same evening at Black Barn. Please see Prunings for more information. We look forward to seeing as many of you as possible there.

Richard Mills