Camelot success built from the soil up
Nestled in the heart of Hawke’s Bays’ horticulture precinct at Twyford, west of Hastings is family-owned and operated Camelot Fresh Fruit Company.
Stewart and Pamela Burns have worked hard to develop the land, from an original 12-hectare block operated by Stewarts’ parents, Neale and Janice Burns.
This block was part of a larger land-holding originally owned by Neale’s parents Charles and Joyce Burns.
“There’s a lot of history here and we’re very proud of how we have developed the orchard business further from these early days,” says fourthgeneration Richard Burns, Stewart and Pamela’s son.
Richard joined the business in 2008, with Thomas and wife, Sophie, joining in 2014.
Daughter, Cathryne has spent the last 3 years developing her role within the Quality team. Today, the orchard extends over an area of 45 hectares.
The history of the orchard is ﬁrmly embedded in growing a mix of both summerfruit and apples, with diversiﬁcation into growing intensiﬁed peaches, plums and nectarines.
Richard says the split of 50:50 summer fruits and apples has served the business well, minimising the risks that come with “having all your eggs in one basket”.
Camelot has formed strong relationships with several New Zealand exporters to market a variety of apples including Royal Gala, Galaxy, Fuji, NZ Queen and Pink Lady™ with exports distributed world-wide, especially throughout Asia.
Summerfruit products from Camelot are marketed within New Zealand by MG Marketing Ltd through leading supermarket chains and independent markets.
“We’re happy with the range and quantities we’re producing and our place serving the local market. We’re currently developing markets for our summerfruit into China and USA.”
Key to Camelot’s success and the reputation it has gained in producing top-quality fruit is the attention given to soil quality.
The nutrient loaded soil when coupled with the biological orchard management systems in place result in nutrient loaded fruit with ultra-low to nil residues.
Stewart’s skills in developing an orchard from the soil-up mean that his advice is sought-after and currently, alongside his primary role of managing director of the business, he advises and supports several other orchardists in the area.
Richard says part and parcel of running a successful orchard and pack-house operation is in accepting there are limits as to what can be controlled.
“Last year there was a lot of rain over the apple harvesting period and you will have years like that, so you just have to get on and do the best you can, with the fruit you produce.”
Camelot Fresh Fruit Company employs a team of 12 key permanent staff who carry a passion for fruit production. A regular force of casual fruit pickers and packers made up of locals and a Recognised Seasonal Employer team from Vanuatu are employed annually.
Camelot access these RSE staff through their membership as part of Pick Hawkes Bay, a not-for-proﬁ t collective which recruits Paciﬁc Islands workers.
The remainder of tasks are ﬁlled by backpackers visiting the country as part of their OE adding cultural diversity to the seasonal teams.
When asked whether he felt the orchard was operating at capacity, Richard says the focus now is on intensifying production on the same area of land, replacing two rows of trees with three.
“Learning from Plant & Food Research’s FOPS (future orchard planting system) the goal for Camelot is to increase yields while also enhancing both consistency and quality, the key to these being light,” he explains.
Packhouse services are also provided to other growers, both small and large, in Hawke’s Bay.
Camelot Fresh Fruit Company has evolved a wealth of experience in assessing and monitoring the maturity of fruit, ensuring they are picked and packed at the best time for optimum quality.