Tuesday, 01 March 2022 07:25

Automation the answer

Written by  Peter Burke
NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond says the kiwifruit industry needs to turn to automation. NZKGI chief executive Colin Bond says the kiwifruit industry needs to turn to automation.

The kiwifruit industry needs to automate to protect growers from the labour challenges the industry faces.

That's the view of kiwifruit growers collective NZKGI's chief executive Colin Bond.

His comments come as the first kiwifruit for the new season starts to get picked.

Bond believes that automation, in the first instance, will likely be in the post-harvest area, which is easier to automate than in orchards. But he notes that this part of the supply chain takes up a lot of seasonal workers and with further automation they then could be diverted into the orchard area.

"This would be a good first step and buy us more time to grow the industry as we look for ways to automate in the orchard," he told Hort News.

Bond says there is a lot to be positive about as the season gets underway and he's predicting a bumper crop of 190 million trays - 10 million more than last year. He says there is a lot of demand in the market for our products. However, he points out the challenge is how to get all the fruit off the vines, safely through our supply chain and into markets.

Bond says labour is one of the biggest issues facing the industry. Historically around about 25% of the staff the sector employs com from overseas, which is a big hole to fill while borders are shut.

"We have been working very hard during the last few years trying to attract and retain more locals. We are only just starting our labour attraction campaign for this and over the last couple of years we have pulled in an additional 3,500 New Zealanders into our workforce during the seasonal peak," he says.

"We're hopeful we can do that again but it gets increasingly challenging as the unemployment rate drops and - as we know - every industry is screaming out for people."

More like this

All hands on deck

Growers are mucking in and helping staff to pick this year's kiwifruit crop.

Zespri's challenging year ahead

Zespri is expecting this year to be one of its most challenging seasons it has faced, thanks to the impact of Covid across the global supply chain.

Future peachy for NZ kiwifruit

A recent global report says the outlook for the NZ kiwifruit sector remains strong due to expanding kiwifruit consumption in Asia, the EU and the US.

Local kiwifruit pickers needed

New Zealand's borders are opening again and kiwifruit grower organisation NZKGI wants backpackers coming into the country to help with this year's harvest.


Machinery & Products

JD establishes new hort JV

John Deere claims a joint venture between it and California-based technology company GUSS will assist horticulture producers achieve greater on-farm…

Mulchers set the standard

Orizzonti is well known in the viticulture and orchard sectors for its specialised range of mowers and mulchers.

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

No free ride!

OPINION: This old mutt is getting somewhat tired of multi-national, tax-dodging, fund-raising group Greenpeace always given front and centre mainstream…

How come?

OPINION: A mate of yours truly is questioning exactly why the Māori ag sector have been given special budget funding by…

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter