Collaboration and investment signals bright future
The future of Australia’s apple and pear industry is looking bright with upgrades, investment and collaboration paving the way for some of the country’s leading businesses.
APAL CEO Phil Turnbull said this year alone there has been more than $140 million invested into packing and storage facilities.
“The investments are creating a scale that has not been seen before in the Australian industry – shifting us closer to the scale of overseas operators – and with it the economies of scale needed to compete in export and domestic markets,” he said.
“It’s also pleasing to see our industry attracting capital investment from public and private investors. It underscores the strong future that’s ahead of us.”
This comes off the back of an announcement that four Goulburn Valley farming families have joined forces to form a single business, Pomona Valley. General Manager, Rocky Varapodio said the four like-minded businesses (Oakmoor Orchards, Turnbull Brothers Orchards, Chatswood Farm and Pickworth Orchards) understand the future of the industry is in consolidation, size and scale.
“This collaboration is all about the scale required to enter new markets, and the support we need to put a farm business on a growth trajectory that was previously beyond us. We are creating a new business that will build on our families’ investment in the past and provide for generations in the future,” Mr Varapodio said.
The merger, commencing 1 July 2021, is backed by a Canadian Pension Plan, Ontario Teachers’, which holds a diverse portfolio of assets globally and is managed by AustOn Corporation in Australia.
“This sort of investment for our region just speaks volumes for the Goulburn Valley,” he said.
The partners view this as an opportunity to maximise export potential, boost local employment and cement the Goulburn Valley as the fruit capital of the country.
Not far down the road, the Geoffrey Thompson team are working on a $60m revamp of the former Ardmona Cannery to be known as FruitCo. Geoffrey Thompson Director, Garry Parker said the facility will be fully automated, offering a low-cost fresh fruit packing operation.
“This will be the lowest cost packing operation in Australia and that’s done with a combination of automated robotic equipment and higher skilled people operating the equipment,” Mr Parker said.
“The Australian market can only consume a certain volume of fruit and we’re pretty much at that level now. Unless the industry starts exporting significant amounts there’ll be too much fruit for the local market and the prices will reduce.”
FruitCo is expected to open early next year and has been supported by a $15m federal government and $1.5m state government grant.
Another industry leader, Montague, commenced operation at their new state-of-the art facility in Narre Warren, Victoria earlier this year. Managing Director Scott Montague said their $66m development is focused on delivering an environmentally sustainable offering to align with the global demand for fresh, clean, healthy and natural Australian produce.
A key part of their vision was to increase environmental responsibility and the facility has been built to the highest environmental standards. “These include 100 kilowatts of solar panels, energy efficient thermal design and water collection, treatment and use,” said Mr Montague.
“It’s really promising to see the scale of investment in our industry not only from the businesses listed above but other notable enterprises in each of our key growing regions,” Phil said.