Seeka has completed its packing of Hayward kiwifruit and this signals the completion of all Australian harvests. This has been a challenging season as teams have had to grapple with labour shortages, the back packers and overseas Pacific Islands workers simply are not there.
The company acquired the site in Bunbartha, Victoria in 2015, with 500 hectares and are Australia’s largest kiwifruit growers.
“The season ended earlier this year, it would normally go into the first week of June. This is fortunate though as the Shepparton area in Victoria has experienced a heavy early sequence of frosts,” explains Seeka CEO Michael Franks.
“Attention now turns to managing the selling season for all varieties and back into the orchards. It’s been a great growing season after a difficult spring with some PSA pressure and difficult pollination. Fruit quality, size, dry matter and taste all have been excellent, and the orchards have had regular rain up until autumn. More recently is has been drier. There is a lot of winter work for the teams to work on.”
Volumes have been average this season but the quality has been excellent which has given better packouts.
Seeka only grows Hayward in commercial quantities and is trialling new varieties in kiwifruit and pears with the new RICO pear an outstanding new development. The company has approximately 70 new hectares of kiwifruit in development and around 20 hectares of pears.
Most of Seeka’s fruit is sold domestically to its customers in Australia. A small volume of fruit is exported to Asia and Europe. This is done to manage capacity. Export shipping has been a real challenge this season.
Seeka has implemented a number of innovative new packaging formats designed to remove plastic and develop a more sustainable carbon footprint. A new fibre pre-pack box has been used in a 5 piece and 8 piece format, and a machine is used to assist in the production. This innovation has been well received by the market with numerous positive customer responses directly to the company. They intend to expand this innovation which has been enabled and supported by retail customers.
“In addition to the punnetting innovation, Seeka has installed a new nashi sizing machine. Previously all the fruit was handled and sized by hand, the machine takes the guess work away, speeds up and gives our customers a consistent product. Just when you think you can’t do too much else with a mature product – then we have improved it again.
“Although mechanisation saves labour it not about cutting costs. The reality is that we simply don’t have enough people. In spite of paying more, we are still desperately short. Our drive to innovate is as much to get the job done as much as the financial equation around it. And our customers continue to get a fantastic product at a great price – grown and packed in Australia.”