Labor Costs a Concern for Tree Fruit Growers in New Zealand
The future of farming seemed to be a consistent theme among the second day of the International Fruit Tree Association’s (IFTA) New Zealand tour, writes Christina Herrick on GrowingProduce.com. This was the first day of orchard tours in the Nelson, NZ, area. Advancements made on in the orchard are all in the name of cutting labor costs.
It’s estimated that by 2020, the minimum wage will rise from $15.75 to $20.50 here. Most New Zealand growers using seasonal labor pay about 15% to 18% more.
While at Birdhurst Orchard in Motueka, NZ — which is a part of Golden Bay Fruit — both co-owner Evan Heywood and Orchard Manager Aaron Cederman talked about the move to more labor-efficient production. This includes an over-the row Munckhof sprayer.
Cederman says their orchard has four multi-row sprayers, and another one ordered. He says this allows them to react much faster and cover more ground easily, especially when the timing of sprays is critical. Each sprayer can cover about 1.6 acres an hour, and when the whole fleet is deployed, the team can cover the whole 500-acre 1,200- trees -per per-acre orchard in five hours.
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“It’s just about getting across the farms quickly,” he says. “We honestly wouldn’t be doing it with the single-row sprayer.”