Lindsay Rural blueberry field trip, Coffs Harbour

Lindsay Rural’s Australian team reflected on the important role it plays in the horticultural supply chain during a one-day field trip as part of a week-long company conference held at Coffs Harbour recently.

The team initially visited one of the company’s most successful retail stores at Woolgoolga, which supplies mainly blueberry and other berry and vegetable growers in the surrounding areas, before viewing one of the region’s leading blueberry growing operations, as well as Oz Group’s hi-tech blueberry packing facility.

There has been a greater focus on raspberry growing in the region in more recent times and banana crops also have returned, while blueberry production has eased slightly.

The Lindsay Rural team visited a leading raspberry and blueberry
grower as part of its company conference at Coffs Harbour recently. 

Lindsay Rural general manager Chris Kerton said the Woolgoolga store had been one of the company’s most successful acquisitions, with the local team receiving strong support from Oz Group grower members.

The local growing operation on a 28-hectare property has soil-grown blueberries, substrate-grown raspberries and cucumbers produced under the Chouhan Produce brand.

The property highlighted the benefits of strong investment, including in the Priva greenhouse control system from Powerplants Australia for irrigation and fertigation control, which also has allowed labour efficiencies, as well as in high quality fertilisers such as Haifa’s Multi-K GG and MKP.

With similar yields produced whether in soil or substrate, the property is leaning toward substrate-grown crops due to their easier measurement and management, including via simple drip and drain testing.

In pots, trace element fertilisers can continue to be added without concern over them building up, as occurs in soils, while new crop genetics also are increasingly being released for substrate situations.

The latest technologies continued at Oz Group’s state-of-the-art blueberry packing facility at Coffs Harbour, which processes about six million trays a year sold to produce markets and direct to supermarkets.

About 140 local growers deliver fruit to the store via their trucks and utes, with their relevant blueberry variety and tray numbers all recorded and the growers later receiving fruit quality reports from Oz Group’s marketing partner, Driscoll’s.

The highly sophisticated fruit grading, packing, and handling equipment at the facility was an eye-opener for Lindsay Rural’s regional staff based around Australia.

An automatic sorting and packing machine at the facility collects eight photos per second of every berry and is the only machine of its kind that packs berries automatically. It requires only one person to operate compared with five under previous systems.

Oz Group also has shown its own innovation with the development of a tray featuring a ventilation system, which already has saved the business $10 million over five years.

In partnership with gas and welding specialist, BOC, Oz Group also earlier entered the growing frozen berry market through the use of controllable vibration technology at the facility that quick-freezes each individual berry.

During peak operation times, up to 84 staff are employed at the site and the facility operates 14 to 16-hour shifts daily, before machines are thoroughly cleaned at the end of every day.

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