A sense of profound validation is the ultimate prize that the Malley family of Maungatapere Berries Ltd have walked away with as the Regional Supreme Winners of the 2019 Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards.
The Malley family of Patrick, his wife Rebecca, their children Austin (4) and Eloise (1) together with Patrick’s parents Dermott and Linzi, operate their diversified horticulture business, just outside Whangarei.
Patrick says of the Regional Supreme Award, “I am just so stoked to come away with the win this year. It is a massive validation of the work the family and all our staff have put in since first entering the competition in 2014 and just missing out. We have worked really hard on multiple areas of our business to make it the best possible, and this win will add fuel to the desire to keep working towards excellence.”
Growing green and gold kiwifruit, as well as four types of berries hydroponically has extended the business’ harvest season to nine months and provided employment for around 45 permanent employees and up to 180 seasonal pickers.
Raspberries are the biggest berry crop, hand picked and then packed hygenically in a temperature controlled packhouse on the orchard, and sold domestically under their own Maungatapere Berries brand along with blackberries, their own unique berry – the solberry, and blueberries grown under the Eureka brand.
The Kiwifruit canopy extends over 16.25ha, including 3.36ha of Gold 3 under cover, to target high-taste, high-production, early season fruit. The Ministry of Social Development nominated the business for the inaugural Primary Industries Good Employer Awards in 2018, and they received a Highly Commended for their work in Employee Development.
Although operating as a conventional kiwifruit orchard, the Malley’s have introduced a wide range of biological and organic pest and disease controls, as well as innovative biodiversity measures to support natural activities on the orchard.
Comfrey has been planted in the weed strip area underneath the kiwifruit vines, which traditionally would be heavily sprayed with glyphosate to control weeds. The comfrey’s long tap roots bring up nitrogen and other minerals, dying leaves support the build-up of organic material, and the bright blue flowers attract bees during pollination, act as a nectar food source and directional guide.
Other plantings of tree lucerne, apple mint, chamomile, lavender, hebes, rosemary, borage, and forget-me-nots encourage and feed beneficial insects and natural predators. Cabbage white butterflies are scared off with home-made scarecrows, pheromone traps are used to disrupt raspberry bud moth and tropical army worm, and UV traps collect Noctuid moths.
Predator mites such as Persimilis and Cucumeris have been introduced and the natural predator Orius help control thrips and mites. Compost is applied at 20 tonnes/ha annually under kiwifruit, and the majority of nutrients are used through fertigation instead of solid fertiliser to eliminate run-off issues.
A 3.5ha irrigation dam and lake adjacent to the property in which the Malleys have a 66% ownership share provides natural habitats for multiple bird species and water for the kiwifruit drippers and micro-sprinklers. Berry vines rooted in bags of coir substrate are grown hydroponically sourced from the Maungatapere Water Scheme, stored and filtered and provided with nutrients and controlled electronically.
The rainwater collected from 5ha of tunnel houses is directed into multiple soakage holes to feed into the natural underground aquifer. A significant expansion of the orchard including the development of another 4ha of berries is now underway and will feature a 9 million litre ground storage reservoir for irrigation redundancy.
Further expansion is on the horizon for Maungatapere Berries Ltd, and the business is ripe with opportunity – pun intended!
“We are going to keep expanding our diversified operation, including adding in more berryfruit varieties and working towards the goal of providing more full-time work opportunities for our local Northlanders. We are also doing further work on our companion plantings and water storage/conservation projects as our business grows.”
Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award
Bayleys People in Primary Sector Award
Hill Laboratories Agri-Science Award
Massey University Innovation Award
Waterforce Integrated Management Award
2019 Northland Regional Supreme Winner
Enter the Ballance Farm Environment Awards