Heinz Wattie’s has embarked on two major projects which reinforce the strength of its partnerships with New Zealand’s growers and long term commitment to help the country maintain its world class horticulture edge.
“These investments in technology and best practice will help ensure both the vibrancy of our horticulture and the Wattie’s business into the future,” says Mike Pretty, Managing Director Heinz Wattie’s. He adds: “80 years ago Sir James Wattie’s established and built a thriving business based on innovation and an inspirational spirit. Within that same business today we are still working hard to ensure a vibrant future in partnership with our growers so that our consumers have access to high quality local products.
“Two major projects are examples of this commitment. They involve our carrot and beetroot crops – the first in the South Island, the second in the North.”
Two-year beetroot project to lift sustainability and competitiveness
Heinz Wattie’s Ltd is embarking on a $480,000, two-year research project with Plant & Food Research, involving beetroot crops grown for processing in Hawke’s Bay, with benefits for local growers, the company, the environment and the country. The project is the second phase of the company’s earlier initiatives to both invest in a state of the art processing line in Hastings and new research to ensure the supply chain feeding it is optimised.
This new project aims to develop crop scheduling tools and crop management guidelines that will improve the ability of local growers and Heinz Wattie’s to produce beetroot to specification regardless of the challenges growing conditions and the weather create. It is improving the ability to produce the right product at the right time, allowing the processing facility to operate smoothly and efficiently. The project is being part funded (40%) by Callaghan innovation, a standalone crown entity that accelerates innovation growth within businesses.
Massive step-up in production
Wattie’s has been processing beetroot in Hastings for 70 years, and until recently the annual volume was about 3,000 tonnes.
In the 2011-12 summer season there was rapid scaling up of beetroot production as processing increased to meet Heinz Australia’s demands. This season around 24,000 tonnes is being processed.
One of the factors behind the success of beetroot in Hastings has been the strength of the partnerships with growers and the yield advantage in locally grown product. The increased volume has been grown on significantly less area than that previously used by Golden Circle when this crop was grown in Australia.
Over $7 million was invested in the Hastings factory to process these increased volumes into 37 different products lines for consumption in New Zealand and Australia.
Heinz Wattie’s and growers recognise that the agronomics of beetroot – from field to processing – must be optimised to offset inevitable rises in production costs and the need to maintain global competitiveness. The planned project will look at the impact of different growing districts and soil, seedbed structure, planting depth, soil moisture and fertiliser practices (amounts, timing and method of application). Heinz Wattie’s believes with the continuous improvement in the management of the beetroot crop and its interface with processing, there are market growth opportunities.