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"We want to try and get out of the crowd, and differentiate our offering"

How innovation has helped a Victorian stone fruit farm become one of Australia's leading producers

Introducing and embracing innovation in a constantly changing technology ecosystem has helped Cutri Fruit become not only the largest stone fruit producers in Australia – but one of the leaders in the global fresh produce industry.

Since returning to the farm in 2004, Managing Director, Gaethan Cutri has grown it in size, scale and scope to be a best-in-class production horticulture operation.

"Cutri Fruit is continuously looking to improve efficiencies and remove constraints so that we can compete on a global market," he said. "I've always had a passion for improvement, and I love the idea of continually innovating. Challenging the status quo is always the core of our business, and I have always been fascinated by this space. I was so honoured to have been asked to speak on a panel at evokeAG. with some amazing minds within this exciting field.”

Cutri Fruit has full vertical integration, including owning and growing exclusive stone fruit varieties and having its own exporting division.

Innovations include automated irrigation systems and a MAF Grader Vision Sorting Technology (Global Scan 7), while radio-wave technology is in place across the properties - and the company is looking at getting GPS steering tractors. But Mr Cutri says productivity improvements are not all about adding new technology.

"I think we are just looking at what is the biggest constraint and how do we remove it," he said. "Whether it is by implementing lean practices, or robotics and mechanisation. So, we think about it across all aspects of the business. One of the key metrics that we measure across the entire business is dollars per kilo; so, dollars per kilo in picking, and dollars per kilo in packing. How many labour dollars are there to pick a kilo and pack a kilo. We then track that back to the Cutri Fruit staff. Whenever we introduce something, we are hoping it reduces that cost, or it makes it easier. We always look at if it improves productivity - if it doesn’t, we see it as a failure and we move onto something else."

Photo: Gaethan Cutri speaking about technology on his farm during evokeAG. 2020 (credit: AgriFutures Australia)

Mr Cutri stressed the importance of the word "lean" when it comes to running a modern-day fresh fruit and vegetable company, noting that it is such a competitive industry, especially given Australia's high cost of labour, therefore the aim is to reduce the complexity.

But he adds that adding the latest technology, is not necessarily for everyone, and business owners must consider what will work best for them on an individual basis.

"No one needs to do anything - it's about whether your business is actually going to be better off for it," Mr Cutri said. "In our industry, the margins are very tight. The domestic market is really hard to make money, so we are forced to look globally, and we are forced to innovate and improve every single day. But you don't have to (introduce new technology), some people may be better than I am at execution and make more money from that, or stripping out costs and processes. We just think it is a combination of all those things."

Mr Cutri added that brand development is a key part of the company's future, as it works to find unique varieties. In the past three years, Cutri Fruit has brought in over 50 new varieties from the best international breeders, and the first step has been taken to commercialise at least 5-6 of them.

"We want to try and get out of the crowd, and differentiate our offering so we and our customers get a better opportunity to earn - it's a competitive space," he said. "We are just testing customers' reactions and we'll take it from there. Some are easy to grow, and others more difficult - so, it's a balancing act between all of those things, but ultimately, if we give consumers a better experience, they'll see the value in stone fruit."

File photo (credit Cutri Fruit)

Among the more recent launches for Cutri Fruit is the Turtle Egg; which is a green plum on the outside and golden on the inside, with 28°Bx. While the Green-Red Plum is really crisp and is green-silverish in colour on the outside, with dark red flesh.

"We've tried to find things that look and taste different," he said. "We've done a couple of green plums, and a few from the Watermelon Plum category - so they are green with specks of red, and when you cut them open, they are red on the inside. We have a couple of other yellow plums as well. It’s a really exciting time for our business.”

For more information
Gaethan Cutri
Cutri Fruit
Phone: +61 3 5037 6661
www.cutrifruit.com.au


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