Horticulture boom adds to workload

Horticulture boom adds to workload
A trencher in action. Drains are usually laid to one metre depth, preventing versaturation.

Northland drainage and contracting business Driver Laser Drainage has established a long history servicing the farming and rural sector, however of late there has been a growth in demand for its services from the horticultural sector.
“In our region there’s been strong growth in horticultural activity so we have got plenty of work in that quarter which works well when, through winter it can be too wet to be working on farms,” Karl says.
He’s been involved in the industry for 30 years and set up on his own back in 2006, having worked in tandem with Northland Laser Drainage.
Looking back on his time Karl says that while the technologies have changed the basic drain-age processes have remained the same.
“Lasers have been around for 30 years or so now and make it possible to lay drains to exact depths and directions, however as far as skills are concerned my operators still need the same abilities as I had when I first started. It is specialised and skilful work,” Karl explains.
With his years of experience Karl has also set up some specialised equipment, particularly adapted to cope with drainage work on kiwifruit properties.
“Kiwifruit operators invest a lot of money in infrastructure when setting up their orchard, and they don’t want to have to break it down in order for drainage to take place, so I’ve created smaller drainage units that work within the orchard canopy.”
Drains are usually laid down to one metre depth and once constructed provide the orchard with a much better growing capability, given surface water has been managed, preventing over-saturation and allowing under ground for the root systems to grow unimpaired.
“We can also design a subsurface orchard drainage system specific to each orchard and as a result improving the oxygenation while lowering water-table height.”
Karl and the team extend their drainage and contracting services across the bulk of greater Northland.
To complement the busy drainage division Karl has a fleet of tractors, diggers and trucks to perform general contracting projects.
“When I started I had one trencher and a digger and now we have four trenchers, three diggers, two trucks six tractors.”
Traditionally winter months offer some respite from the 12+ hours days through the bulk of the year, however Karl says that with the reasonably ‘kind’ winter experienced to date, he hasn’t had the opportunity to undertake as much ongoing fleet maintenance as would normally occur.
There are still plenty of avocado and kiwifruit orchards developing up North and one challenge for Karl is in finding operators at the level of competence he demands.
“I have three full-time staff at the moment and could take on another one given how much work is out there. One thing I try to do is ensure that we can respond when a request comes for work to be undertaken as I understand how critical time is when dealing with drainage problems.”
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