14 April 2020
2020 finalists: Robin Oakley of Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables - Horticulture.
Taking notice of the small things is proving to be a recipe for success at Oakley’s Premium Fresh Vegetables. Operating over 400ha, this Canterbury vegetable producer is the main supplier of potatoes, beetroot, pumpkin and broccoli to one of the South Island’s biggest food chains.
Oakley’s entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards because they feel they’re doing a good job of looking after their environment while providing healthy food to thousands of people every day.
Owner Robin Oakley started the Southbridge business in 1999. He says it can be the small things and observations that make all the difference to sustainably producing quality vegetables. To enhance crop performance, his team keeps a close eye on crop rotations, soil cultivation, soil nutrients and irrigation, plus they adapt to environmental conditions.
The judges commended Oakley’s for using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to determine when to apply pesticides, backing their commitment to using minimal fertilisers and chemicals. They’re working with Plant & Food Research to release a wasp that biologically controls pest insects, plus have a strong focus on reducing their environmental footprint – for example 70% of water is recycled.
Maintaining the health of plants reflects the business’s innovative approach, another aspect praised by the judges. For example, Oakley’s uses quality genetics to achieve high-grade, maximum yields while reducing inputs. They’re constantly trialling new material as they fine tune what works best. They’re also innovative in their use of technology, whether it be for machinery, communication or monitoring.
The result is consistently high-quality vegetables and, ultimately, happy customers. The judges were impressed with the business’s flexibility to meet changing consumer needs and an outstanding commitment to customer satisfaction. Staff wellbeing is a priority, as is supporting the local community with both sponsorship and produce.