A Taranaki development organisation is encouraging people into the avocado industry.
Venture Taranaki’s initiative, called Branching Out, hosted an event last month attended by 120 potential growers, investors and support services.
“Through this event, we were able to present first-hand credible information while busting myths,” says Venture Taranaki chief executive Justine Gilliland.
“We gave potential growers the information they need and industry connections to support them as they consider the viability of avocado orchards for themselves, here in Taranaki.”
Guest speakers included Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool orchard productivity manager Jonathan Cutting and Avoco market manager Henry McIntosh.
The support from the speakers and the engagement from the attendees was encouraging, says Branching Out project manager Kevin O'Reilly.
“It was really heartening to have speakers from the Bay of Plenty come and share their expertise, since horticulture is something the East Coast does so well,” says Kevin.
“Growers here have been able to sustain the local supply of avocados to a certain degree, but the idea of the Branching Out project is to make sure we drive sales further into New Zealand, and export.
“We're not just here just to feed Taranaki. We're here to feed the world.”
How avocados would handle Taranaki’s weather was a hot topic at the event.
“There's a very accurate belief that Taranaki is quite windy, and wind is no friend of the avocado,” says Kevin.
“A generation ago that was a problem but now we have ways to mitigate the wind and smarter ways of pollinating the plants. We're more likely to be successful now than we were a decade ago.”
Taranaki’s cool weather in November is also something to consider, says Kevin.
“That’s why new orchards won’t roll out everywhere in Taranaki, they still need to be grown on sites that are in those warmer micro-climates.”
Venture Taranaki say there are about 207,000 ha of land potentially suitable for generic horticulture within the boundaries of the Taranaki Regional Council.
Venture Taranaki commissioned Plant and Food Research to complete a land and climate assessment of the region, to determine its suitability for nine potential horticulture ventures, including avocados, kiwifruit, apples, hops, and cannabis for hemp and CBD.
In October, Venture Taranaki hosted the project’s first in-person event, which focussed on kiwifruit.
Kevin says the focus crops were decided based on existing markets.
“We’ve focussed on two crops that are a bit harder to grow, but easier to sell.
“Going forward, we're looking at things that are easier to grow at a small scale, but that are harder to find a market for.”
Branching Out aligns with Taranaki's regional economic development strategy, Tapuae Roa, and the Taranaki 2050 long-term vision for a low-emissions economy. The programme is managed by Venture Taranaki and a steering group of food and fibre sector stakeholders.
The initiative is funded by Taranaki's three district councils and the Ministry of Primary Industries' Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund, with significant in-kind support from Venture Taranaki, Massey University, Crown Research Institutes, and primary sector/food and fibre industry enterprises.