1 September 2008
Bay of Plenty orchard manager Glenn Roberts started out in the Kiwifruit industry as a horticultural cadet 21 years ago and remains as passionate about Kiwifruit as he was back then.
His enthusiasm and skill was recognised earlier this year when he picked up two category awards in the prestigious Ballance Farm Environment Awards. With the help of wife Shona, Glenn manages two orchards on behalf of the Trebilco family, including Riverside Kiwifruit Orchard near Katikati.
Glenn says Riverside has proved quite a challenge because almost half of the 23ha orchard is a former riverbed. Soil fertility was initially low and a lack of moisture hindered plant growth.
But soil fertility has been improved through the use of organic compost (including goat manure) and irrigation is now provided via a 1.8million litre pond. “We only irrigate when soil samples indicate it’s required, says Glenn. “It’s a scientific approach, not just guesswork”.
The same principles apply to fertiliser inputs which are based on soil and leaf sampling. “We also collect our own pollen for artificial pollination.”
Fruit size and production have increased since Glenn took over the orchard and so have the numbers of wild duck, pheasants and native birds, proving that good business and environmental management go hand in hand.
Glenn entered the Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards last year and was thrilled to win both the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award and the Zespri Kiwifruit Orchard Award.
Judges were impressed by his drive to be the very best in his business, “but not at the expense of environmental sustainability”. They also noted the good working relationship he shared with his employers and his desire to help others in the industry move forward.
Glenn says he entered the Ballance Farm Environment Awards to get recognition for kiwifruit growers and to encourage others to support the annual competition.
He says it is important for the industry to show it is serious about promoting environmental sustainability. He also enjoyed getting personal recognition for his efforts and those of his employers.
The judging process provided the opportunity to benchmark the economic and environmental performance of Riverside Orchard against other operations. “Its good to compare yourself with others,” says Glenn. “The judges also presented some very useful suggestions and gave good advice on the use of shelter plantings.”
Glenn would like to re-enter the competition in a couple of years and he urges anyone considering entering this year’s event to give it a go because it is well worthwhile. “If I can do it, anyone can.”
Entries for the 2009 Bay of Plenty Ballance Farm Environment Awards are now open. For information on entering the awards, contact BFEA regional coordinator Kirsten Winter, phone (07) 573 5238 or email firstname.lastname@example.org Or visit www.nzfeatrust.org.nz or www.bfea.org.nz