Northland Investment Brings Opportunities

The development of a new kiwifruit orchard in Wiroa, will create the equivalent of 44 full time jobs in the region

Article published in Fruitfed Facts – August 2020

The orchard development is being undertaken by Craigmore Sustainables, a primary sector management company looking after a range of horticultural, farm and forestry investments around New Zealand. It’s part of Craigmore’s permanent crop partnership launched in 2016 which is building a $250m portfolio of sustainable horticulture businesses.

Craigmore Chief Executive Che Charteris says New Zealand’s horticulture sector is a world leader in many areas, with exports growing at 7 per cent per annum for the past 20 years, bringing with it increased regional development and employment. “New Zealand horticulture is highly competitive in many crops and we also have the logistical capabilities to ensure high quality fruit arrives in demanding export markets in the very best condition.”

Alan Dobbie is Craigmore’s man on the ground in Northland and he’s overseen the conversion of the Wiroa farm to Gold3 kiwifruit since the three-stage development commenced in 2019 with the planting of the first 28 ha. This year 33 ha are being planted and when finished next year, there will be 70 ha of kiwifruit in total. All blocks use a mixture of natural and artificial shelter. Alan says Craigmore utilises the orchard management skills of local packhouse Orangewood to supply the orchard manager and workers. “In time, Orangewood will also pick and pack the fruit from Wiroa Orchard,” says Alan. “I’m the only Craigmore employee here and will stay on here to oversee our Northland horticultural operations.”

Craigmore also invested in some smaller kiwifruit orchards around Kerikeri. “These are ex Turners and Growers, planted with ENZA Gold. Seeka runs these for us and we’re grafting over to G3 this winter. It works well for us to keep some diversity working with both the major packhouses in this area.” An 8 ha avocado block was purchased in Kaikohe around the time Craigmore invested in the kiwifruit properties. “Again, we’re employing locals to manage and run this property for us which we have expanded with an additional 8 ha of intensively planted Hass avocados over the last two years.” The company owns other Northland properties where the steeper country has been planted in pines and the flatter land fenced for grazing.

The Craigmore ethos is focused on managing land sustainably using local personnel and expertise to produce high quality food and forest products. Investors, both international and domestic, defer all management and control to Craigmore. “We have quite specific criteria when searching for property,” Alan says. “We want a diversified portfolio spread across different crops and regions. With a crop in mind, we then find a property to suit.” Alan’s connection to Fruitfed Supplies dates back a number of years during his involvement in various horticultural ventures in Bay of Plenty and Tasman.

“I see Fruitfed Supplies as a strategic partner in that we look after them and they look after us,” says Alan. “I’ve always really liked their technical backup and had the opportunity to talk with Fruitfed’s research people and get their steer on various things over the years.”

Kerikeri-based Technical Horticultural Representative Michael French works with Alan to support the Craigmore kiwifruit and avocado operations, supplying key inputs for the Wiroa development such as artificial shelter, posts and wire, spray guards, and crop nutrition and protection products to support the successful establishment of the young kiwifruit vines. Michael also assists with nutrient and protection options for the Kaikohe avocados, utilising the Greenlight Grower Management software to record soil test results and generate fertiliser recommendations.

Mark Robinson, Fruitfed Supplies Kerikeri Area Sales Manager, notes: “The scale of the ground-up, green-field Wiroa development has provided the Kerikeri Fruitfed Supplies team with an opportunity to utilise our planning skills in meeting the manufacturing and logistical demands required to have products arrive on-site to keep pace with the physical build of the new orchard. We value the partnership with Craigmore.”