Jun 04 2019

June Monthly Update

Covered Crop sessions at HortNZ Conference Wednesday 31 July 2019

On Wednesday 31st July TomatoesNZ have planned a varied and interesting range of presentations for covered crop growers at the Horticulture Conference, which is being held at Mystery Creek this year.   Given this unique venue, a range of speakers and hands-on demonstrations are planned.  Included in this year’s line-up are the following topics:

An innovative greenhouse spray robot with air-boost spray application technology

FTEK is a family run company that specialises in the design and manufacture of crop maintenance and harvesting equipment for the greenhouse industry.   Based in Pukekohe they work closely with their customers to develop smart solutions for grower needs.

During the conference FTEK are officially releasing their new “air-boost” spray application technology and will be demonstrating Tek-Spray; a fully autonomous greenhouse pipe-rail spray robot dedicated to precise and efficient application of pest & disease control sprays. This innovative air assisted spray technology has been adapted to boost coverage in traditionally hard to reach areas of the crop, dramatically improving results whilst reducing chemical usage and intervals of spraying.

Greenhouse monitoring from BumperCrop

Adam Forbes founded BumperCrop in 2018 to help covered crop growers get the most from their plants by making precision agriculture technologies affordable and easy to use. He has over 12 years of experience in product development, software and user experience, holds a Master’s Degree from Stanford University, a BSc (Hons) from Otago University and is a Fulbright Scholar.

 Adam’s vision is to make it feasible to monitor and optimise conditions perfectly for each individual plant in a greenhouse, substantially increasing productivity and reducing costs per square meter. Adam will discuss how BumperCrop is being used by New Zealand growers and how their feedback has helped to shape the solution and achieve the vision. He’ll also provide a demonstration of precision Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and mobile Apps.

Low-cost CO2 for greenhouses

Hot Lime Labs, a project which initially spun out of research by Dr Vlatko Materic at Callaghan Innovation, is a system that uses renewable sources to create low-cost CO2 for greenhouses.  A gasifier converts woodchips into “wood gas”, from which they extract clean CO2 using Hot Lime material.   Currently under trial, this innovative system is aiming to provide growers with renewable CO2 at half the cost.

Learnings from a workplace incident

Simon Watson and Lex Dillon from NZ Hothouse will be presenting on learnings from an incident they had at KPH Produce Ltd in July 2016.  They’ll talk about this and the specifics of the enforceable undertaking, and how they’ve modified their business practices from then to now to create a safer workplace.

Utilising social media

The Curious Croppers, aka Angela and Anthony Tringham, tomato growers from Clevedon, will share their journey as growers and how they’ve used social media as a platform to engage with their customers and the wider community.  The Tringham’s grow interesting and appealing tomatoes which they supply to many of New Zealand’s top chefs, along with weekly sales through the Clevedon Village Farmers Market.  Anthony also regularly engages with people interested in agroecology through his facebook group.  Angela and Anthony will share their experiences with us and what they’re learnt along the way.

An update on ETS and Climate Change Policy

Senior Climate Change Policy Analyst for the Ministry for the Environment, Kelly Forster, will update growers on the government’s plans for managing climate change and some of the policies being proposed.  Under the current coalition government, various mitigation strategies are currently being reviewed which are likely to impact horticulture.  Kelly will provide an overview of the current situation and steps that are planned.


Both NZ Hothouse and the Tringham’s will be presenting in the morning, after Sir Peter Gluckman’s conference opening session on Advanced Breeding Technology.  Ftek, Bumpercrop, Hot Lime Labs and Kelly Forster are presenting in the afternoon session.

Register before 26th June to take advantage of the early bird grower member rates - go to https://conferences.co.nz/hortnz2019/

Further Queensland Fruit Fly in Auckland

Notification of another male Queensland fruit fly found within the Northcote controlled area on 11th May brings the total to 8 over the past 3 and half months.

Biosecurity New Zealand stepped up it’s on the ground efforts in the suburb as a result of the latest find.  This includes placing bait on fruit trees to attract and kill adult flies, in particular females, putting out more traps (which attract males), and removing fruit grown in the area. A new controlled area notice for the movement of fruit and vegetables 200m around the new detection has been implemented.

At the time of writing, there have still been no female flies, larvae or eggs found. While it is concerning there has been another detection of a male fly, it still doesn’t confirm that there is a breeding population. What it does is raise the potential that Queensland fruit flies remain in the area, albeit at very low levels. The extra measures are being taken to maximise the chances of catching any other flies that may still be around, while they are still active and before cold temperatures set in.

The movement restrictions and response activities are a considerable inconvenience for the residents of the area. We have been very lucky that the Northcote community has been very supportive and recognised the need to prevent the pest establishing here.

TomatoesNZ, as a GIA partner with MPI, continues to be involved in the governance of the response. To date TomatoesNZ’s cost-share for the responses through to early May is approximately $70,000, which represents 4.2% of the share being contributed by industry, with MPI funding at least 70% of the cost. Other industries contributing include kiwifruit, apples & pears, avocado, citrus, summerfruit and vegetables.

There will however be further costs with the ongoing activity due to this latest find.  Indicative cost estimates are that it they will be within the fiscal cap that we have established under our agreement with MPI.

We plan to fund our share of the response by using our fresh tomato biosecurity levy, although we are still awaiting our levy application’s approval by the government before we can implement it.  The fresh tomato biosecurity levy was approved by members at the 2017 AGM in Tauranga, and has a maximum rate of 0.25% of value at first point of sale.