Jul 30, 2018

Growing Together in NZ Horticulture

You’ll have to excuse the potential puns, multiple meanings and broad nature of this month’s title… but, having seen first-hand the comradery, competition and enthusiasm at this year’s national horticultural conference in Christchurch, I can’t think of a better over-riding title for July 2018.

This year’s theme for the NZ Horticultural Conference was “Our Food Story” and I think Mr Chapman is bang on the money with this assertion that “the horticulture story underpins everything we as an industry do”. I.e. this isn’t just the story we tell retailers, customers and international markets - it’s how we as an industry think, behave and react (and “pro-act”) collectively. For mine, this was clearly on display in Christchurch. The broad range of direct and associated industries exhibiting at the tradeshow, the attendance at all events and the quality of the presentation content showed just how much care and attention stakeholders are giving the event.

Selfishly, my personal highlight was showing off the new Aporo apple packer to delegates as they entered the venue. Jenkins Freshpack Systems had a prime location and the robotic arms packing Class 1, count size 100 NZ Royal Galas into trays at over 110 fruit per minute got a lot of attention. As the arms whirred away and presented neat, oriented trays of apples, so did the minds of the visitors, bursting with questions and consistent murmurs of “it’s the way of the future” (I tend to think it’s the “now”!). At one stage, some cheeky vegetable grower thought they might test the machine by throwing a potato into the infeed… which the Aporo duly packed perfectly. I daresay the camera system would have had trouble finding the “reddest” side of that “apple”!

Holding the annual conference at the Air Force Museum in Christchurch (I recommend checking this place out if you haven’t already) also provided a poignant touch in terms of technology. For me it was a moment to reflect on the technology of the past and acknowledging the fact that, while now outdated and “clunkier”, the beauty is in the simplicity and historical endeavour. One day I hope we look back at the Aporo packer, much like I did the old aircraft in Christchurch, and think “those old beauties were great” or “without them we’d have been lost”. I can only hope there is a retrospective feeling of fondness… and that it’s another 50 years away.

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