Innovative company leading the way
Maungatapere Berries has won a large number of accolades at the Northern Region 2019 Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The company took out the Supreme Award along with the Waterforce Integrated Management, Bayleys People in Primary Sector, Hill Laboratories Agri-Science, Ballance Agri-Nutrients Management and the Massey University Innovation Awards.
Company director Patrick Malley says that the family entered the business in the awards to bench-mark and identify areas for improvement.
“We always want to continue to challenge our-selves and improve,” he says.
The company has come a long way since 2011 when Patrick, wife Rebecca and Patrick’s parents Linzi and Dermott purchased a small kiwifruit and avocado orchard in Northland.
They have since expanded the kiwifruit business, now growing 16 canopy hectares of mainly the gold variety.
But it is the berry business they started – rasp-berries, blackberries, solberries and blueberries – which has really taken off with a recent expansion increasing their growing area by 3.9 canopy hectares to a total of 9.2ha.
Solberries are a new variety developed by Maungatapere Berries with a peachy-yellow colour and a taste that is almost fl oral, with a tropical fl avour.
It’s an example of the type of innovation, which helped the family take out the Innovation Award.
Another example is the creation of a tracking software for the horticulture industry called Dataphyll, which provides real time information enabling the family to make good decisions.
The software is being commercialised and will be on the market by the end of the year, says Patrick.
He says that looking after the people in the business is another strong focus.
In fact it was what led the family to look at growing berries in the first place:.
“We like to have crops which provide our staff with consistent and reliable work. Because we grow the berries hydroponically we can grow them year round and provide work regardless of the weather,” he explains.
Maungatapere Berries works with the Ministry of Social Development to employ and train people who don’t currently have jobs.
Maungatapere Berries employs 45 full time and 180 casual staff, mostly locals making the company a large local employer.
The family also has a strong focus on the environment and captures clean rainwater off the hydroponic tunnels that is returned to the under-ground aquifers.
While Patrick says this is of no direct benefit to their operation it provides a return to the community ensuring plenty of good clean water for people to drink.
Significant investment has been made into a fertigation system so that plants can be fed nutrients in the right quantities for maximum absorption thereby reducing nutrient run off.
The operation also has an on farm lake that captures drainage water, which is filtered through a wetland to ensure water quality.
Being good custodians of the environment also extends to packaging.
Trays are made from cardboard and punnets from a compostable cornstarch that will break down completely under the right conditions and have a carbon footprint up to 80% lower than traditional plastic punnets.
Patrick says the reason that the family is in the horticulture business is because of the constant challenges the industry provides.