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Pahoia Orchards

How a New Zealand grower has built and is expanding a successful multi-fruit orchard

A New Zealand fruit grower says that, while it was as challenging season weather-wise for its blueberry crop, they were still able to produce strong volumes.

Pahoia Orchards is a family-owned and operated multi-crop operation situated 15 minutes north of Tauranga CBD, growing three crops currently, kiwifruit, blueberries, and avocados.

"Our blueberry season started late August and carried through to roughly November it is our second year and we pulled off just under 13,000kgs," Operations Manager Alex Croasdale-Saunders said. "This season was wetter than normal, which was challenging to keep the fruit dry but we made do! On a positive note, every day we felt we were getting behind, it would cool off enough for us to keep on top of it. The season was okay, some fruit came on later than normal from one variety and the price dropped suddenly so that was very disappointing as a grower to not be able to harvest the total crop. We are positive for this season coming and have put plans in place to try to mitigate this."

He added that 80 percent of the supply went to the local market, while 20 percent was exported.

"I believe that there needs to be more education that our berries are on the shelf so much earlier than the December market so we can truly capitalize on the New Zealand market," Mr. Croasdale-Saunders said. "I believe our blueberries went to Taiwan and Vietnam, just a few I can think of. We supply Miro/Berryco with our berries marketed under the blue royal brand. We also supply our avocados for Just Avocados. It was just domestic sales for avocados last season but we are hoping to export to Thailand this season."

The farm also grows Zespri green kiwifruit, which Mr Croasdale-Saunders says is still in good demand despite other varieties of the fruit hitting the market.

"Our kiwifruit season went well we grow Haywood green kiwifruit under Zespri and we managed to have it fully harvested in two days; we also had a good Taste Zespri Grade (TZG), which was promising, but I believe there may have been a few quality issues in the markets this season, as most growers will be aware. I believe there may become an oversupply of gold kiwifruit, and I believe there will always be a place for green and or a new green variety in the coming years. Our green kiwifruit is packed and exported by Zespri and Mpac in Tauriko."

Building on a six-year career in horticulture
As Operations Manager, Mr. Croasdale-Saunders's role is planning all staff movements, harvest, pruning developments, and general operations. He has a second-in-command (2IC), Darrie Andrews, to help assist in the day-to-day management of the orchards.

"I have been back working for the family for close to three years now and developed a 2ha, 10,500-plant Eureka Blueberries orchard fully under covers, with state-of-the-art irrigation systems such as Priva, and also did a small 1.5ha 289 tree avocado orchard irrigation project, to set our orchard up for fertigation. Prior to helping start Pahoia Orchards, I did one-year native tree planting and assisting in the nursery, which inspired me to pursue horticulture and confirmed that I enjoy it."

He then went to Te Teko, Whakatane, to help set up Miro Berries first blueberry orchard in 2018 and worked there for close to 2 years.

"I started my studies through Toi Ohomai sponsored by Miro Berries then I went to Avoworks for six months to get a taste of the avocado industry and get some more experience. I then went on to start planning the blueberry development for Pahoia Orchards then worked as a plant care assistant for BerryCo. in their blueberry nursery part-time while planning the family's orchard development. I believe this gave me wide industry exposure from a young age which helped give me the work ethic and experience to help create Pahoia Orchards into what it is today."

Mr. Croasdale-Saunders also wants to pass on his knowledge and passion for the industry to up-and-coming members in horticulture.

"So far this year, Toi Ohomai students have visited our orchard twice to see what we are doing. I have also had Tauranga Boys' College out once to try to inspire their students," he said.

For more information:
Alex Croasdale-Saunders
Pahoia Orchards Ltd. 

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