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Growing Innovation: Issue 7, May 20, 2016

Drawing on R&D to increase yield

Hugh Harris, Evermore Farm, Alstonville NSW

The Macadamia industry welcomed Hugh Harris with open arms in 2010 and he hasn’t looked back. Today, Evermore Farm Macadamias is a family run business which manages about 30 hectares of orchards and produces just over 100 tonnes of macadamias, in shell, each year.

“I love having a small, productive farming business that contributes in a small way to Australian and international food markets.”

The ultimate reward of sending tonnes of nuts out the farm gate, was the culmination of a year’s work mowing, managing the orchard floor and canopy, fertilising, crop monitoring, controlling pests, harvesting and handling, Hugh said.

“I really do like the feeling of harvesting the crop and sending it away to be processed, knowing that you have done your best to produce nuts that are going to be consumed and enjoyed around the world.”

He added that the industry was lucky to be serviced by a group of private and publicly funded research bodies.

“Experienced and knowledgeable staff from these bodies cover a broad range of specialties from crop nutrition and canopy management, to pests and disease. As a grower, I have been involved in a number of research projects with the DPI and the AMS.”

These projects included canopy management and production trials, and fruitspotting bug monitoring trials.

“They enabled great interaction with research professionals in the industry and have generated real information that I have used in better managing my orchards.”

Hugh said he had been able to significantly increase his home farm yield through implementing canopy management trials and had also reduced spray applications while maintaining good fruitspotting bug control.

“The research projects have generally been carried out with a number of growers in our immediate area and have really generated improved area-wide management practices.”

Macadamia processors, the Australian Macadamia Society and Horticulture Innovation Australia had an essential role in affording growers access to local and global markets, Hugh said.

“You must be able to sell what you grow! We are in a unique space at the moment, with significant demand for our produce, assisted by the availability of high quality product, favourable currency status, and well-executed marketing campaigns on a number of levels.”

Hugh said processor Stahmann Farms had an excellent understanding of both local and global markets and access to a very large share of the world market.

“This gives us great confidence when putting the effort in to growing the crop because we not only know that we are going to be able to sell it, but also that we are going to be able to sell it for the best return possible.”

Hugh said there were a number of challenges facing the young macadamia industry, including ageing orchards and maintaining current levels of demand for the product.

“From a production perspective, combined efforts have seen the industry continue to grow over the past few years and the market is currently booming. We need to ensure that supply and demand are carefully monitored and that long term strategies are put in place to grow both.”

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