Mike Casey and Euan White of Forest Lodge Orchard


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2024 Otago Finalists: Mike Casey and Euan White of Forest Lodge Orchard – Horticulture

Technology and sustainability are the hallmarks of this Cromwell orchard that has grown its harvest exponentially since being developed from bare ground in 2019. 
Forest Lodge Orchard is a 6ha cherry production business that has planted a whopping 1,650 trees per hectare by following the upright fruiting offshoot trained system. The owners’ drive to develop a premium cherry orchard is equally balanced with their desire to be sustainable. 
The first harvest was in 2022 and sold at a premium in New Zealand before they started exporting fruit the following year. They harvested more than 50 tonnes of fruit in 2023 and are chasing a target of 100 tonnes by 2027 when the cherry trees will be mature.  
Right from the start, owners Mike and Rebecca Casey, and Euan and Rachel White have been striving to electrify all orchard methods and equipment – a goal they have achieved. They have an electric tractor, have electrified the orchard’s irrigation pump, installed New Zealand’s first electric frostfighting fans and are developing an electric foliage sprayer. 
In 2022, they set themselves a challenge of going completely fossil-fuel-free in the orchard. This will potentially save about $50k per year in energy bills and continues to drive greater creativity in finding or developing alternative approaches. 
Technology extends to a sophisticated treetagging system. The tags are picked up on a mobile device by employees or robotic solutions when scanning the orchard. In 2024, the team aims to photograph every tree using an app that assesses both yield and potential harvest date, enabling accurate planning of packhouse logistics. 
The judges were impressed with pest mitigation strategies and the orchard’s health, safety and business practices. They said the continued focus on innovation is outstanding, not just in areas of electrification but in all areas of orchard practice.

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