Blueberry Country is New Zealand’s largest blueberry grower with orchards at Ohaupo and Ngatea in the Waikato and Otautau in Southland.
Co-owned by Greg and Alison Furniss together with other family members, Blueberry Country employs 80 – 90 staff in the pack houses and up to 300 in the orchards during the seasonal pick.
The Ohaupo property was purchased in 1990 from the receivers of Blueberry Hill, The Ngatea property was purchased the following year. The Otautau property was purchased in 2002.
During this period BBC Technologies was established as a sister company, it has since become a global leader in turnkey solutions for sorting, and packing small fruit such as blueberries.
The Otautau block is 200 hectares with about one third planted in blueberries. The current plan is to have the whole block planted in the next 5 years.
“A big risk for us is the weather wiping out a crop at a critical time”, says Greg. “The three enemies of blueberries are frost, wind and the roots being too wet.”
For frost protection, Blueberry Country has six FrostBoss® C49 machines positioned in different sections of the orchard at Otautau. The fans start automatically when the ground temperature drops to 0.5°c. The fans push the warmer air down and are set to run until the ground temperature rises to 2.5°c.
The bushes start flowering in late October and November. During these two months it is important to have wind and frost protection in place.
Simon Bardon, General Manager at Otautau, is alerted to the fans working by a text alarm, triggered by the fans’ remote monitoring system. In addition, the remote monitoring option provides historical data and graphs on temperature, run-hours and machine performance.
Blueberry Country sells about half of its fruit fresh with the balance going to the frozen market. About 10% is sold into pick your own (PYO) berries at all three orchards for very reasonable rates during the summer season which generally runs from early December to late February. They also have a café open during the summer picking season.
More details are available at www.blueberry.co.nz