Kia ora, welcome to our Avocado Quarterly Newsletter

eNews Avocado 3rd Quarter, September 2022

Carol Palmer
TAGL Director

Carol PalmerIt is just on two years since we became avocado orchardists and what a steep learning curve it has been! What has struck me during this time is how much information is available to growers and how willing people are to share their experiences, learnings, and ideas. We have found the field days and technical sessions invaluable. We have recently hosted a NZ Avocado field day on our orchard and learned a lot from that. It has been a challenge to process all of the available information as often it is conflicting, so it is somewhat reassuring that even people who have been avocado orchardists for many years say they are still learning. However, we now feel as though we have distilled the information into the key principles of orchard management and are following those principles, along with continuing to attend field days and seeking advice from the technical experts.

Improved return to growers is definitely top of mind. My view is everyone has a part to play, starting with the growers who have a responsibility to practice good orchard management to ensure optimal yield and fruit health. Alongside this we see the key areas contributing to the return to growers as: de-risking the export market returns, addressing the poor fruit quality and poor returns from the local market, and managing the increased regulation.

Export market – the volatility of the Australian market needs to be effectively managed so the grower can have more certainty around returns. Maybe an option is for contracts with the Australian wholesalers to be secured early in the season and a price locked in. And of course, we need to mitigate the risk of relying on Australia by actively securing Asian markets in the immediate future.

Local market – there must be opportunities to promote the avocado to improve local consumption across the country. It is of great concern that here in the North Island we are seeing poor quality fruit in the local market being sold at a premium price. Firstly, this leads to a poor customer experience and poor brand profile for the avocado. Secondly, the higher return is not being passed on to the avocado grower. This cannot continue and we need to see industry bodies intervene to effectively manage the fruit quality and returns to the growers.

Compliance and regulation – we are not alone in having to manage increased compliance. What we need to do I think is determine how we can manage the compliance in a much more effective way. What can be automated, what can be deduplicated and what can be rationalised – quite simply what can we do differently?

The optimist in me says the future looks promising – we will be focused on optimising tree yield and fruit quality. In return we expect the industry to effectively manage both the export and local markets and to work with growers to minimise the impact of the compliance requirements. 

Daniel Birnie
Avocado Manager

So another season of picking and packing is upon us. For some of you, it is your 30th plus year of owning your orchard, and for some others, it is your first. I will try and summarise some of the key points I have learned this season, compared to previous ones.

  • The fruit profile is larger this season (compared with the same time in previous seasons)
Average size (YTD)21.723.126.123.3
% smalls (YTD)10%20%42%24%


  • We are not as advanced through the harvest as we have been in previous seasons
Percent through harvest (YTD)8%15%15%15%


  • The local market value has changed. Below is the value of size 24 Class 2 fruit in the July 2 pool over the past four seasons
Per tray return Size 24$15.53$12.13$25.83$23.70


With the harvest this season, Trevelyan’s Avocado Growers Limited has asked the avocado team to adhere to the 40% rule as much as possible (that is, only pick 40% of your crop estimate in your first pick). At the beginning of the season the order of orchards is based on dry matter results, and now that we have the blanket clearance, we will aim to pick the highest dry matter orchards first, whilst considering orchard location and contractor availability.

Our flow plan is below. As we go through the season the estimated volumes by week become actuals, and we smooth out the ups and downs.  As it stands, we have an excessive picking demand prior to Christmas, and a bit of a gap in the new year.


Katherine Bell
Grower Liaison Representative

The last couple of months has been filled with discussion groups, field days, and technical meetings. While flower pruning and orchard costs have been big topics at these field days, growers have been worried about the future of the industry. The previous seasons’ low returns and the five- year AVOCO plan meeting, have highlighted a need for change in the industry. Part of this has emphasized that we need to keep moving forward with research to become more efficient in our growing systems.

At the NZ Avocado technical meeting we met to listen to presentations on industry research and provide feedback. What stood out to me was the PlantTech Airborne Sensor project, it is an exciting opportunity for the industry. It’s a 20 kg sensor that is flown 2000 ft over orchards, with a technician in the plane controlling the sensor. It detects visible, infrared, and near infrared wave bands, which are then used to detect the chemical composition of the plants. This project has many potential applications, including maturity testing, tree health (injecting), crop estimation, and targeted fertiliser application which could influence in market fruit quality.

This project, alongside regenerative agriculture, high-density planting, new cultivars, and alternative pest management, provides a bright future for the industry.

Te Puke Avo Discussion Group Sept 22


Jonathan Cutting
Avocado Technical Manager

Financial sustainability – what the Regional Discussion Groups taught us!

A few months back we held a series of discussion groups across all the regions looking at inflation, profitability, and the ongoing financial viability of avocado orchards. We were aware of growers telling us that costs were rising rapidly, and those of us on the Trevelyan’s Avocado team who have orchards, have experienced the cost escalation first-hand. There are two parts to the avocado financial equation. One part is the cost of production including the entire value chain (as all the costs are borne by the grower, one way or another) and secondly, the income we receive.

Recently, Avoco shared part of their five-year plan with growers at a meeting in Papamoa.  Their income projections for the next five years were presented as a band and were sobering!  Undoubtedly, while there is strong global demand for avocados in Asia, we compete head- on with a number of other avocado producing countries in a very cost competitive environment.  Avoco has suggested that we undertake our planning using a $12-15 per tray orchard gate return (OGR).  Assuming a 10-tonne crop with a 66% export pack out that delivers a per ha OGR of around $17,000.  That’s a gross orchard income, before costs, of between $500 and $550 per bin. We know this will be a very challenging environment for growers, with the combination of high costs, and exacerbated by the rampant inflation that is currently entrenched in our industry.

Therefore, it appears there is minimal opportunity to influence our incomes apart from the historical focus on yield, fruit size, and fruit quality. The focus of this article is focused on orchard production costs, and the discussion and feedback regarding these costs from growers. It was very interesting getting grower input as to their understanding of their production costs. What did emerge was that there were largely three groups of growers when it came to costs:

  1. growers who purchase orchard management (“largely hands off”).
  2. growers who employ staff and are actively engaged in the orchard management (larger growers often with diversity in their farm income such as kiwifruit or dairy).
  3. growers who do everything themselves, or as much as possible themselves, and who may engage a contract harvester.

Generally, growers are attempting to understand and reign in production costs in the industry.  We will look at the six of the largest cost areas:

  1. Harvesting
  2. Pruning and tree management
  3. Spraying and pest control
  4. Fertilising
  5. Phytophthora root rot control
  6. Pollination

Some of these costs are fixed (for example pollination and pest control) and others are yield driven such as harvesting and nutrition. Again, using the 10-tonne harvest scenario we see that harvest costs could be anywhere from $60 to $200+ per bin based on grower feedback, for a total harvest cost of $1,800 to $6,000 per ha. The number of bins is driven by volume, (tonnes/ha) but the cost per bin is driven by the way the crop is harvested (ground picking versus Hydraladas, or owner picked versus contractor). Again, growers can see that $200 per bin, which is about 40% of the gross income, is unsustainable.

One of the aspects that came through clearly from the discussion groups was the difference in managing labour costs and big equipment or machinery on the orchard.  This was most clearly seen when discussing pruning costs. Some growers used a contractor, while others did the pruning themselves. In collating the information regarding pruning costs, I noted the large range in costs from $200/ha to over $8,500 per ha. When we “delved” into the difference we found that the grower who spent $200/ha did all the pruning themselves  on a high density orchard with very close spacing (4mx3m), maintaining smaller trees and only pruning  “smaller” wood that he could easily deal with using his orchard mower. Machinery used was a rechargeable chain saw and pruning shears, plus an existing orchard tractor with a light mulching mower. This translated to around $7/bin using the 10-tonne yield scenario.  By stark contrast, the grower who spent $8,500/ha only pruned every three to four years, pruned widely-spaced, larger free-standing trees and used a contracted operator in a Hydralada. The pruning was focussed on large trees with thick limbs using hard cuts. The clean-up was completed using machinery that cost $275/hr to run for a cost of $2,500 to $3,000/ha.  As this practise was only conducted every three to four years the annual per ha cost was $2,000 to $3,000/ha. Using the 10-tonne example, this translated to $65-$100/bin.

Spraying and pest control was another area where there was a marked difference in costs.  Again, the cost difference was large with some growers recording as little as $500/ha spent on pest control versus others spending $2,500+/ha. A quick scan of some spray diaries showed that a number of growers applied two back-to-back rounds of thrips control, one leaf roller spray and three to five rounds of sprays to manage six-spotted mite. Other growers got through the year with one round of back- to- back thrip sprays and two rounds of six-spotted mite sprays.  Some growers (perhaps due to microclimate) simply had lower overall pest pressure and just sprayed less.  Other growers used cheaper, and sometimes nastier, chemicals. Many of the cheaper and/or nastier chemicals have been “lost” to growers due to “revised” holding periods. Using the newer “softer” chemistry is generally very expensive.  Good spray coverage and high kill rates are essential to making the new chemistry effective, but our large dense trees and sometimes marginal weather often reduces effectiveness.  Again using the 10- tonne yield scenario, spraying costs translate to $30 to $75/bin.

Pollination is another input cost with some divergence across our grower groups. Some growers just don’t believe that bringing in bees is necessary, while other growers do place hives in their orchards. The industry recommendation is six to eight hives per ha. Most beekeepers charge $200-$230 per hive, often in multipliers of four.  However, in some regions beehives were more expensive up to $260 per hive.  Pollination costs varied between $0 and $2000/ha. Using the low- end of the recommendation and $220/hive equates to $1300/ha or $45/bin.

Fertiliser costs were another area where there were very divergent costs through our grower group. Obviously, tree age has a bearing, but generally, fertiliser inputs were similar from six or seven years of age onwards. Costs ranged from as little as $1,000 to more than $6,000 per ha. Using the standard “Trevelyan supplied option” based on around 110 units of nitrogen was between $1,700 and $1,900 without compost. The growers with much higher fertiliser costs used significantly more foliar products, which are expensive. Fertigation type fertilisers are more soluble and purer, and therefore, more expensive, with costs being in the range of $3,000-$4,000/ha. Compost is an interesting option, as 10 tonnes of compost contains about 100 units of nitrogen (1%) which makes it quite cost competitive with conventional fertilisers. This indicates to me how much fertiliser costs have skyrocketed in the past two years.  Fertiliser costs ranged from $30 to more than $200/bin using our 10- tonne yield scenario.

The last input that growers felt was costly was Phytophthora control. Again, there was considerable variance in costs, largely driven by the philosophical view of the grower. Some growers don’t inject or seldom inject. Others only inject “sick” trees. Some growers Inject “sick” trees twice annually. Some growers inject every tree preventatively, and additionally inject “sick” trees a second time annually. Some growers foliar apply phosphorus acid preventatively. Some growers do the control themselves while others use a contractor. The costs reflect this range of activity from $0 to more than $2000/ha.  This equates to $0 to $70/bin using our 10-tonne scenario. We can but hope that Phytophthora tolerant rootstocks in good soils won’t need this input.

There are many other and mostly lesser orchard costs including; irrigation, orchard floor management, shelter belt maintenance, compliance costs, AvoGreen monitoring, a consultant, etc.

In a nutshell, we can see that production costs can quickly get away from us.The $500-$550 bin income looks daunting when our six largest production costs inputs start to test our $550/bin income using the 10-tonne scenario. There was general agreement at all four discussion group meetings that something has to change, and if it isn’t income, then we need to radically look at how we grow avocados.

A number of options  being explored include;

-High density orchards with associated lower production costs (especially labour), and regenerative agriculture with a focus on soil health and mineral “unlocking” as a way to reduce fertiliser and orchard floor management costs.

-Further cost savings could be reduced Phytophthora pressure and less phosphorus treatment.

-More open tree architecture improves spraying efficiency thereby improving fruit quality and reducing the number of sprays required.

-The new Phytophthora tolerant cultivars with better cropping and less root rot pressure should help with cost containment.

Precision agriculture, new remote sensing capabilities and radical new thinking in the pest management space are all new developments. The future is exciting – global demand is still very much there and avocados are a great product, perfect as a great all- around food. How well we go here in New Zealand is our challenge. Success is how well we embrace, adapt to, and adopt the new technologies. It’s simply evolutionary – adapt or die!


Stuart Jennings
Avocado Orchard Manager

Orchard Management

As the weather warms up and the grass begins to grow faster, our focus on managed orchards changes somewhat. The late winter spotlighted mite management, and when levels got above 20%, we applied a paramite/ etoxamite to our managed orchards. Additionally, there was attention on frost protection, with some small tree orchards receiving a hortiprotect or thermomax. 

We have completed the Global GAP audit for all our managed orchards, and most of the orchard management contracts.

The first round of fertiliser is being applied on orchards based on our fertiliser recommendations, and generally consists of AvoGain No P and granulated lime.

We have had to change beekeepers for some orchards due to several beekeepers exiting, and please calenderise that hives will be going into orchards in late September/ early October.

I would also like to congratulate my colleague Laura Schultz in her efforts in the Young Grower competitions.

Avo orchard




Zara Marra
Local Market Manager

Local Market Update

The volatility in the domestic market reflects the season. Volume to date is 991K TE versus 1.06m TE for the same period last season.

The lower industry pack outs are evident in NZ Avocado’s 3rd estimate. The crop total remains at 7.2m, while Class 1 is down 7% and NZ Fresh is up 7%.

June and July were somewhat stable months due to the weather restricting harvest. Market pressure intensified during August and September with a 49% increase in volume from the previous months. This volume is less than ideal in midwinter when consumer demand is low.

Downward pressure has resulted in little demand for Class 3 and minimal return on smalls. Therefore, at times there has been a need to divert fruit to process which is earlier than predicted.

Export is expected to ramp up by late October, daylight savings is here, and the warmer weather is on its way. We are hopeful that consumer demand will reflect this.

We are currently working with the markets to further our pre-pack offerings.

BayFarms online has just released a new recipe. Check it out – BayFarms Avocado Pasta.

Bay Farms Avocado Pasta


“Good things come to those who wait”

This year, it seems like everything has taken a bit longer than planned.  The kiwifruit season started earlier than usual and finished later as rain affected the last of the harvest.

We have had similar issues with our 2021 Sustainability Report. Despite our best intentions to have everything ready to go early in the year, the collation of the data and the preparation of the report has taken longer than planned.

Regardless of the delays, we are still keen to recognize and celebrate this very significant process which we have been doing each year since 2014.  Why is it so important to report on our sustainability performance each year?


  1. Take time to reflect

The seasonality of our industry means it’s very easy to get caught up in the moment. In writing our sustainability report each year, we take the time to pause and reflect on what went well, what didn’t go so well and to celebrate how far we have come on our journey towards a better future.

  1. Set new goals

The sustainability challenges we face are evolving rapidly. Recent weather events highlight the immediacy and scale of potential climate impacts. By reporting each year we are constantly evolving our strategy and challenging ourselves to keep improving.

  1. Share our journey with our stakeholders

A lot of the sustainability progress that we have made in the last few years has been thanks to our key stakeholders, our people, and our suppliers.  The people who work with us understand our business, they come up with the ideas that help shape our sustainability initiatives and they do the mahi to get the results. We love sharing their stories each year in our Sustainability Report.

  1. Increase transparency, credibility, and accountability

We work hard to hold ourselves to account. By sharing our sustainability story each year, we’re showing our genuine commitment to understanding and reducing the impact of our activities on the environment and our focus on the responsible use of resources.

  1. Help encourage others on their sustainability journey

Growing a sustainable business is challenging. There are a lot of systems changes that we must work through which often involve difficult conversations as we make our way along the bumpy road towards a better future. We try hard to support others who also want to make progress in this space.  By sharing our journey, we hope they will feel encouraged to keep going even when they hit a bump in the road.

Our 2021 Sustainability Report can be accessed by clicking on the following link and it will also be emailed out to you in the next couple of weeks. I encourage you to read it and if you have any comments or questions, please get in touch

Trevelyan's 2021 Sustainability Report

Dean and Sharyn Petersen

Where are you based and how long have you been growing avocados ?

We are Dean and Sharyn Petersen, living in the beautiful Kutarere/Ohiwa area of the Bay of Plenty. We have spent most of our adult years as dairy farmers, working our way up managing, sharemilking, and then purchasing our first farm in 2001 in Opotiki. We have stepped back from dairy farming now and our son and his partner are sharemilking, and they are in their third season.

We purchased a70 ha Kutarere property seven years ago, mainly as a runoff for grazing stock, and calf rearing. It has beautiful large gardens and lawns, and approximately, 170 x 15-year-old truffle trees producing around 30 kg of black truffle each season which we have enjoyed. Please view our site here.

There are 204 existing avocado trees here, and we knew absolutely nothing about avocados at that stage. Fast forward seven years, and wow, what a bonus it has been!  With some great tips and advice from Trevelyan’s who set up fertiliser recommendations, and advised when to mulch, prune, utilise spray contractors, and pickers, we were thrilled that in 2020 we picked 257 bins! (We are also about to pick again in the next few days.) We have enjoyed it so much that we contoured another paddock, and in 2020 planted another 605 avocado trees and we have already picked over 1000 fruit off them- which was a big surprise! We were so fortunate to have a Trevelyan’s technical workshop here a fortnight ago, advising on how to prune young trees, and since then we have been busy doing that. Additionally, this workshop gave us more information on flower thinning, mulching, when to put bees in, and after further discussion with the group, we have decided to keep the cages on for another year.

What do you enjoy most about growing avocados?

We have found growing avocados an easy transition after dairy farming. We enjoy working outside, and Sharyn has a love for all things plants, gardening, pruning, weeding etc. The trees are very forgiving, and it is amazing how they bounce back after a very heavy prune. We stag horned every second row a few years ago, and this has kept the trees very healthy, in fact, we are now due to do the other rows shortly. A real bonus being farmers, is that we have tractors, and all the gear for mulching, mowing, fencing, irrigation, and Dean is a digger driver which comes in very handy.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a grower over the past 12 months? 

Avocado production can be fickle. Last year we didn’t have a crop, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the market wasn’t very good. So for us, we didn’t have any challenges last year, and it allowed us to focus on the new block with hand weeding, tying up etc.

What are some of the reasons you pack your fruit at Trevelyan’s?

The timely advice we receive from Trevelyan’s has been a Godsend! We were newbies, and their guidance and providing us with a yearly plan, with regular soil testing, and fertiliser recommendations, (which we stick to) has paid off. One thing we learned from farming, is that you can’t skimp on the fertiliser and so soil testing is very important, because why fertilise if it’s not necessary? When it comes to picking time, Trevelyan’s organise fruit testing to see when the fruit is ready to be harvested. They keep in touch, communicating when we are due pick, when the bin labels arrive- as they did this morning. Working with such a professional, efficient company certainly gives us peace of mind.

We know you hosted a discussion group at your orchard recently, will you make any changes based on the feedback you received?

With our new block, we knew we had to get pruning soon, as some of the trees are already over six feet tall and were trying to burst out of the cages. The discussion group /workshop was very timely, as Sharyn was about to get stuck in with her shiny new loppers! Turns out, you don’t prune like you would roses, or garden shrubs. We have learned so much, and we are so fortunate to have knowledgeable orchardists in this area with some great advice, (who also attended the workshop) who are so willing to share their knowledge.  I hope we have many more workshops, just having a get-together with likeminded people is always good. Anne and Jonathan at Trevelyan’s are always just a phone call away, and it is so great to run things past them before we do them.

What advice would you give to someone just getting started in the avocado business?

We are no experts to give advice, but the best advice comes from people ‘’in the know’’. Talk to the experts, and ask questions, you won’t learn if you don’t ask. Take on board what they say and make a plan of what suits your orchard. The information available from Trevelyan’s and their team has been so beneficial to us, and additionally, use the experts, they are usually growers themselves, and have tried and true methods of doing things.

Grower Profile


Amanda Murdoch – Harvest Manager


Amanda MurdochTell us a bit about yourself and your background?        

I’ve worked in telecommunications and hospitality, with lots of different roles and titles, including account management, staff support, training roles and administration added into the mix. Additionally, I’ve dairy farmed in the Waikato and spent time living abroad.

What attracted you to working at Trevelyan’s?

Close friends and work colleagues talked highly of the culture and ethics and I knew it would be a great fit.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I’m the harvest Manager for avocado and kiwifruit with this being my first season.  The Trevelyan team have made me feel very welcome and appreciated.

When you’re not at work what do you like to do?

Spending time on the beach, bring on summer!  I also love a good game of cards with friends.


Your help is needed

We are currently reviewing the Trevelyan’s Growers Portal.

Currently, the Growers Portal provides our growers with 24/7, private and personalised information, alongside, great resources and technical advice that is housed conveniently all in one place.

We ask that you please take a moment to answer six questions pertaining to the Growers Portal- your help will provide us with valuable information, so that we can ultimately provide a superior customer service experience.