Kiwifruit News November 2023 Edition
- Steve's Update
- Operations Update
- Industry Update
- Technical Info
- Organic Insights
- The S Word
- TGL Update
- General News
We have completed our first crop estimate for the 2024 season, and it is pleasing to see initial forecasts predicting a return to more normal volumes. While a lot can still happen before the commencement of harvest, our attention now turns to more detailed planning.
One of our strengths at Trevelyan’s is our ability to be agile in response to Zespri’s procurement and shipping program and our capability to manage large volumes of fruit daily and weekly. Maintaining our reputation of delivering world-class fruit for our growers is our priority, and we will work closely with all of you to ensure a successful 2024 harvest.
Preparation is essential to success, and we ask all our growers to be as proactive as possible regarding crop quality. High levels of reject fruit can have a significant financial impact for growers. This risk can be mitigated by:
- monitoring your orchard weeks prior to harvest, and
- removing any explosives or damaged fruit on orchard.
These small tasks will help prevent possible penalty costs from damaged fruit and when explosive fruit affects the remaining crop, particularly as it enters the packhouse and in re-pack.
Head of Operations and Logistics
We have now completed our pollen harvest for the 2023 season. We harvested and milled over 1,800 kilograms of flowers daily at our peak. In total, we have extracted 150.2kgs of pollen this season, compared to 112.5kgs of pollen in 2022. A number of staff were required to work long hours, including nights and weekends; we thank everyone involved for their commitment and hard work, which has ensured another successful pollen season. Avocado packing continues steadily, although we have experienced some frustrations with planned production because of the mixed weather over the past few weeks. Our current flow-plan projects us packing approximately 10,000 trays per week through Christmas and well into January, after which, weekly volumes start to reduce.
Planning and preparation for the 2024 kiwifruit harvest is progressing well. Due to the expected increase in crop volume, we have decided to change our shift pattern back to a 4-day/night on, 1-day/night off roster. This will allow us to pack seven days per week and increase our weekly packing capacity by approximately 250,000 trays. This shift structure requires us to operate with an extra dayshift and an extra night-shift, both acting as relief shifts for the other four-day and four-night-shifts. Labour constraints caused by closed borders during the COVID-19 period are no longer a barrier to this packing structure.
Head of Supply
November 2023/24 forecast
The Zespri Board met on Tuesday, 21st November, and approved the November 2023/24 Forecast.
The details of the latest Forecast Per Tray and Per Hectare returns for all categories are outlined in the table below.
It is extremely pleasing to see the forecasted OGRs for all fruit groups have increased significantly.
With lower tray numbers this year, and after several years of increasing Cost of Quality (COQ), it was an opportunity to regain lost customer confidence in the brand by Zespri choosing to load the fruit early to avoid late-season fruit loss. This decision has had the desired result and is largely responsible for increased forecasted returns.
Increased December Progress
The uplift in the forecasted returns has resulted in an increase for the December Class 1 progress payments, which growers will undoubtedly enjoy. The following table reports the indicative and the approved average per tray due to be paid in December.
The following graph shows weekly market quality card reporting.
The colour card indicates the quality of pallets of fruit as they arrive in the market and was implemented as part of the Supplier Accountability system. Green is the best fruit quality, white next best, with the other colours showing the worsening quality that requires increasing levels of repacking or in the worst-case, dumping. This graph shows that fruit loss was beginning to increase and that the better outturn was more likely driven by the early finish than improved quality.
The industry must continue to focus on fruit quality in the years ahead when we’re forecasting yields and total crop volumes.
Kiwifruit Technical Manager
What is causing explosive fruit?
Also known as ‘exploding softs’, explosive fruit is defined as fruit that has lost all structural integrity of the inner flesh whilst the skin remains intact, thus resulting in a high turgor and balloon-like identity. This fruit bursts with the slightest pressure applied, such as placing it into a picking bag or transferring it to a bin. The juice from the exploding softs is the main cause of NPFG (non-pathogenic fungal growth) which has caused an estimated loss of between $42 and $85 million in the 2022-23 season.
A trial was conducted during the 2022-23 season across five orchards in the Bay of Plenty by Start Afresh and Fruition Horticulture. Some findings regarding the cause of explosive fruit are listed below.
- Certain ‘hotspots’ contribute to explosive fruit measured at the bin tip rather than random distribution across the block.
- There was a connection between explosive fruit and wind exposure, as the less sheltered areas aligned with some explosive fruit ‘hotspots’.
- Explosive fruit hotspots also appeared to be associated with replacement vines, especially in orchards with low levels of explosive fruit. Younger replacement vines typically have larger, earlier maturing fruit, which may become overripe and soft when the whole block is ‘ready’ to be picked.
- Fruit picked from overhanging skirts around the outer edges of the block were also disproportionally represented in explosive fruit.
- Individual hotspots were also linked to sickly, or weak vines (dieback on the leaders, split and callused leaders, and callused or rotten trunk stumps).
- Orchards with proactive picking supervision caught more explosive fruit on the orchard and provided a crucial checkpoint preventing some explosive fruit from reaching post-harvest. However, poor picking practices, such as rough handling and short stalk stubs left on the fruit, can result in high rates of fruit that burst and are then incorrectly counted as explosives at the bin tip.
Our suggestions to address explosives on-orchard are to:
- Adhere to optimum nutrient management because it is crucial in managing fruit quality. For instance, optimum potassium (K) levels are required throughout the growing season. However, excessive K applications closer to harvest can advance maturity and affect fruit firmness. Maintaining optimum calcium levels is key to maintaining fruit firmness and preventing rots.
- Identify and reduce environmental stress spots across the orchard, e.g., areas exposed to wind can be addressed using fast-tracks and artificial shelters.
- Identify stressed vines and address all ways to reduce variability in your orchard. This includes rootstock, replacement vines, and sick vines due to wet feet or disease.
Organic Category Manager
Bud counts and soil health
With flower bud counts nearly completed, the Trevelyan’s averages are 45 buds per m2 and 12,233 Class 1 trays per hectare for GAOB, and 35 buds per m2, and 7,879 Class 1 trays per hectare for HWOB. These are both higher than counts taken at the same time last year.
I recently attended a two-day course led by Nicole Masters as part of her Soil Resilience Tour. As an agro-ecologist, educator, and soil coach, Nicole Masters champions for soil health and regenerative land practices.
One of the topics we covered was the importance of benchmarking your orchard soil and plant health. In addition to your soil and leaf testing, take some notes on the following factors – make sure you date when the measurements are taken so you can compare at the same time next year, or across the weather seasons.
- Mycorrhizal fungi: Pull out some weeds to check the health of mycorrhizal fungi. These fungi form a network of fine filaments, which can act as an extension of the plant’s root system, aiding in absorbing minerals, water, and other nutrients from the soil. The indicator of well-performing mycorrhizal includes the formation of rhizosheaths (clumps of soil particles that cling to the roots, making them appear brown and not white).
- Weeds and their root systems: Check your weeds’ root systems – deep weeds with long tap roots will try to open compaction, while shallow roots, such as annual grasses, are competitive and can indicate bacterial-dominated soils.
- Earthworms and Insects: Earthworms are indicators of a healthy biological life within your soil; get a spade and dig a hole at least 20 cm deep. Count how many earthworms you find, and perhaps compare within differing performance areas of the orchard. It’s also worth checking for other insects, where high levels can indicate pest pressures on the soil.
- Brix: Using a refractometer to measure the brix of the vine leaves can indicate how well your plants are photosynthesising sunlight. Different crops should ideally maintain specific brix levels – aim for a brix level above 12 for kiwifruit vine leaves, and check the brix of grasses and weeds in your orchard. Brix levels can be influenced by various factors, including weather conditions, soil health, and plant stress. By monitoring brix levels over time, you can assess how your plants respond to the environment and inputs.
If any of the above factors fall outside their optimal states, consider investigating the influences of nutrient availability, water stress, or the presence of pests or diseases.
Nicole Master’s did an amazing job presenting this course, and after attending, I would recommend that anyone interested in soil health and regenerative principles get involved when she tours again.
For those seeking more information and resources, you can visit Nicole Masters’ website here.
Head of Sustainability
The cost of doing nothing
Sometimes, in my sustainability role at Trevelyan’s, I get asked things like…
“Why all this focus on sustainability?”
“Haven’t we done enough sustainability stuff already?”
“Isn’t sustainability just costing us more money?”
These questions can feel frustrating, but they also provide an opportunity to pause and reflect on the sustainability work we do at Trevelyan’s and across the wider industry. It’s a great chance to reframe the question another way and ask…
“What is the cost of doing nothing?”
A few recent developments in the sustainability space highlight the risks associated with deferring our sustainability efforts:
- In January 2024, the EU’s Emissions Trading System (EU ETS) will be extended to cover CO2emissions from all large ships (of 5,000 gross tonnage and above) entering EU ports, regardless of the flag they fly. This will include 50% of emissions from voyages starting or ending outside of the EU (allowing the third country to decide on appropriate action for the remaining share of emissions).
If we do nothing to reduce our emissions from shipping, we will face increasing costs to transport our products to European Markets.
- In July 2022, New Zealand concluded negotiations on a Fair-Trade Agreement (FTA) with the EU. Through this agreement, New Zealand has committed to “refrain from any action or omission which materially defeats the object and purpose of the Paris Agreement”. This commitment is subject to dispute settlement and, potentially, trade sanctions if breached.The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
If we do nothing to reduce our emissions, we will breach the FTA and potentially be subject to trade sanctions with the EU, which will likely have negative financial implications for our industry.
- In 2019, the Government, primary sector, and iwi/Māori agreed to work together through the He Waka Eke Noa Primary Sector Action Partnership to develop an effective system to measure, manage, reduce, and price agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. The partnership’s industry and Māori partners presented the Government with their recommendations in May 2022. The Government has been considering the partnership’s recommendations, alongside advice from the Climate Change Commission, with the intention that agricultural emissions will be priced in Aotearoa, New Zealand, from 2025.In November 2023, Fonterra announced science-based targets for reducing carbon emissions and is addressing climate change by reducing fossil fuels in transport and manufacturing and finding ways to manage and mitigate animal emissions on farms. This was in response to pressure from Fonterra’s largest customers, including Danone and Nestle.
If we do nothing, we will be forced to react to customer demands over short time frames, which will likely cost more than developing long-term industry-led solutions.
Ultimately, climate change is a risk that all businesses will have to navigate. Doing nothing is not an option. Having a strong climate policy is just good business, or to quote Vector’s General Manager of Sustainability…
“I call it the first rule of organisational change: if a company can’t survive in a low-carbon future, it doesn’t have a future.”
“The globe has to hit net zero [emissions] by 2050. It’s imperative. As a result, we would expect policy direction to drive towards that, as it has in New Zealand.”
Inclusion is better than exclusion
Thank you to all who attended our recent Annual General Meeting (AGM). Mat Johnston, Murray Cresswell, and Kyle Howie were declared as re-elected Directors for a further term of three years; thank you to Sarah Bragg for her candidacy for election. I believe it is good for TGL that we have elections with more candidates than there are positions on offer.
The TGL AGM handled all the formal matters that needed to be dealt with. All formal motions required were passed unanimously. The Company’s Annual Financials audit was clean, but unfortunately, it was only signed off hours before our AGM. I said last year that steps were being taken to ensure that the situation does not repeat itself, but unfortunately, we have been let down again. I am not a last-minute type of person, so I find the audit timeline adopted very frustrating and will have ‘another go’ to see if agreed timelines can be adhered to. If any grower wishes to review the financials, please contact Debbie or Kelly and ask for a copy.
At their recent meeting, your Directors considered a change in the Company Constitution, and I announced at the AGM the steps that would be taken to achieve the change quickly. The change applies to the qualification time for grower voting, like for the Directors elections. The cut-off is currently the 31st of December, meaning that the calendar years’ harvest, which is earlier in the year, comes into play while the subsequent harvest, three to six months later (which occurred before the election in October/November), does not. For a new fruit supplier to Trevelyan’s, they must wait another year before their vote is countable. A simple change of date to the 30th of June resolves this present exclusion. The shareholders in trust of TGL are eight of the grower Directors, and it is proposed that they hold a shareholders meeting to effect the change in the Company Constitution so that it happens well in time for the next round of elections and voting. If any grower has an objection to this procedure, please let me know.
Summer has arrived, and all we need is for the weather to deliver a nice drop of rain once a week or so.
May you all have a blessed Christmas and a fruitful time with family and friends.
Trevelyan’s company values
Recently, we decided to update our company values. Values are a guide for behaviours both internally and externally and help guide our choices and priorities. Additionally, they provide a means of accountability and responsibility. Adapted from our Sustainability Pillars, we are pleased to share the three new Trevelyan’s Values:
Respect our People
We’re committed to maintaining our integrity and inspiring our people with purpose and pride by investing in their capabilities; creating a respectful and nurturing community where everyone thrives.
By gaining a sound understanding of our growers, resources, and stakeholders, we leverage our expertise and continuous improvement practices, to make smarter strategic decisions and ensure the best outcomes for everyone.
In a world facing complex challenges and changing climates, we remain agile and responsive, cultivating sustainable business practices, and preserving and enhancing the land for future generations.