In ten years, New Zealand’s avocado sales have rocketed from $70m to $240m. The industry now has its sights set on revenue of $1 billion by 2040. That is why plant physiologists like Nick Gould, who leads Plant & Food Research, work to help make avocado orchard systems more productive. Gould says he's constantly being told New Zealand is too far south, too wet, cold and windy for a fruit first grown in Mexico and Central America.
Yet, he says, somehow the fruit is flourishing, despite the seemingly unattractive environment: "In fact our growers can produce lots of excellent avocados - about 40,000 tons a year." To keep up with demand, the fruit is increasingly being planted outside of traditional strongholds such as the Bay of Plenty and Northland.
Gould says the industry's ambitious target of $1 billion by 2040, is unlikely to be hit without a heavy dose of science-led change to overcome challenges. Plant & Food Research is partnering with NZ Avocado to tackle the most pressing challenges, including a big focus on irregular bearing.
"We're working to understand the local climate on flower health, flower timing and pollen transfer to develop orchard management systems that improve fruit set," Gould says.