Friday, 08 May 2020 10:09

Italian innovation helps Zespri

Written by  Peter Burke
Zespri’s chief grower and alliances officer, Dave Courtney. Zespri’s chief grower and alliances officer, Dave Courtney.

Italian kiwifruit packhouses' experience in dealing with COVID-19 has helped New Zealand to fast-track innovation in its own packhouses to deal with stringent new safety regulations.

Zespri’s chief grower and alliances officer, Dave Courtney, told Hort News that when the new rules around social distancing in workplaces came into force in NZ, there were challenges in putting the new practices in place – this slowed down packhouse efficiency for some time.

However, he says some of the packhouses in Italy – which pack Zespri kiwifruit – had been dealing with this issue much earlier, had experience in these types of protocols and knew how to keep people safely apart.

“They actually shared their ideas around erecting screens between people and how they ran their facilities and sent us photos and videos and other information,” Courtney explains. 

“There was a real collaborative approach about how to meet the new rules and how to keep operating under them. So, we were quickly able to take their learnings and devise our own systems based in their ones.” 

Courtney says Italy tends to harvest their green kiwifruit early and put it into coolstores. When they get orders, they bring it out and pack it then. He says the kiwifruit industry in NZ has now got its head around the new protocols and how to operate.

“Many have gained confidence in their operating environment and we are seeing really good pack-outs now. Some are even up to some of the best days of last year.” 

But Courtney says this varies across the industry and there is no doubt the Covid protocols have had an impact on the how firms operate.

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