Sep 15, 2020

Automation Key As Kiwifruit Producers Face Increased Demand & Labour Shortages

Kiwifruit crop sizes across New Zealand are on the rise. In fact, a recent report by Rabobank found that the demand for Zespri Kiwifruit is predicted to increase by 300 million trays by 2028. This increase in global demand is great news for our local producers and the New Zealand economy as a whole, but it’s also presenting its fair share of challenges. It’ll come as little surprise to most of you that the industry has been suffering ongoing labour shortages in recent years. Needless to say, recent events have only exacerbated these issues: ongoing border closures due to COVID-19 have taken the option of bringing in overseas workers off the table. We’ve long relied on overseas workers to fill the gaps in picking, harvesting, and processing. With the borders closed indefinitely, this dependence is proving to be unsustainable. So, where to from here? With the Kiwifruit industry currently between seasons, this lull is the perfect opportunity for growers to plan for how they intend to keep up with demand, even while border restrictions remain in place. That’s why today I wanted to take a closer look at the issues surrounding demand, shortages, and why the solution may well lie in automation. Investing now will ensure you’re able to cope, regardless of the many challenges imposed by our changing world.

INNOVATION IS KEY TO KEEPING UP WITH DEMAND

We get it, the world’s in turmoil and everything’s a little uncertain at the moment. It can be scary taking risks! But now is the time to be bold, take calculated risks and invest in long-term solutions that future proof your business rather than rely on border restrictions easing or limping along on band-aid fixes. In order to meet the predicted increase in demand without relying on overseas workers, packhouses will need to rethink their processes. Without the necessary labour, those in the industry run the very real risk of falling short in both quality and demand. Kiwifruit exports will play a key role in helping New Zealand’s economy bounce back post-COVID-19. But in order to maintain a price premium in the market, the speed and quality of packing needs to remain high. It’s a goal that’s increasingly looking precarious as labour availability tightens. If that doesn’t keep you awake at night? This might. It’s expected that in order to meet the forecast volume for 2020, the New Zealand Kiwifruit industry will need around 20,000 workers in the harvest period. That’s why post-harvest processes and production should be first on your list. Investing in automated machinery now, will ensure the staff that you do have aren’t overworked and at the same time filling the gaps for the staff that you don’t have. The initial outlay may feel costly and a financial burden you don’t want to take on right now, but the cost of not taking action could have a far more wide-reaching impact on your business. Automation is the way of the future. To be a key player in the industry’s growth, packhouses need to keep their finger on the pulse and invest in innovative machinery to enable efficient post-harvest processing of fruit now and in seasons to come.

AUTOMATED MACHINERY MAXIMISES POST-HARVEST PRODUCTIVITY

Automated technology has come leaps and bounds over the last few years. It’s a hotbed of innovation that’s honestly been a joy to watch come to fruition. While eco-friendly packaging has garnered much of the attention in recent years, it’s important not to forget just how much of an impact automation can have on a packhouse’s efficiency and production. From palletising and bin tipping through to labelling, there are countless areas of the post-harvest production process that our machinery is able to streamline and automate. Whilst we specialize in all kinds of fresh produce, we are excited to help automate processes within the kiwifruit industry at a time when it’s needed most. It’s an area we’re understandably passionate about, so you’ll forgive me if I wax lyrical about some of the options for a moment!

Automatic Palletisers

Our extensive range of fast and reliable palletising machinery significantly reduces processing time by eliminating the need for manual filling. Packhouse workers can tend to other tasks while the palletiser stacks boxes and trays of any size. Automated palletisers are a key solution for maximising productivity, reducing labour and meeting growing demand. We can customise a solution to meet your needs and fit within your packhouse footprint.

Automatic Tray Labelers

Our Sinclair TL3 Tray Labeller can label 400 to 1000 trays per hour. This stand-alone piece of equipment can be moved from one area to another with ease, making it perfect for packhouses with multiple labelling points. With 68 pre-programmed tray patterns, the TL3 is a versatile labelling solution.

CHALLENGES ARE MADE TO BE OVERCOME

Kiwis rise to the occasion in times of pressure. It’s the one true certainty in these uncertain times. We’re facing a global pandemic, crop growth is increasing, demand is rising, and severe labour shortages are looming. There’s a lot going on, but it’s situations like these that drive innovation. While it’s impossible to predict when we’ll be free to move across the globe again, automated machinery offers some certainty in the production line that’s hard to come by these days. Taking proactive steps now will minimise the impact of surging demands and declining labour, whatever the world throws at you.

This post was written by

Ann Cameron

Ann is the Sales Manager for consumables. She gets a kick out of helping her customers implement the right packaging options for their products because it can make a real difference to their business.