Over the first three days of August 2012, 40 growers travelled to Bundaberg to look at the new CNA factory and study farming practices in the area.
First stop was the Gowan’s family farm at Glasshouse Mountains. Drew and Max Gowan explained they are currently spreading and incorporating waste paper in their orchard to provide organic material.
The waste paper is a mixture of waste paper and fly ash, both by-products from the paper mill at Petrie on the outskirts of Brisbane. The cost is $3 per tonne, plus transport to farm.
The Gowan’s spread waste paper down the row centre and profile it and the organic material in the interrow back under their trees. They found the surface feeder roots grow rapidly into this material, holding it together, extracting the nutrients within it.
Max is participating in a QLD DPI research project investigating how improving silo operation affects internal discolouration (brown centre) levels. A farm silo has been fitted with a second fan, mounted directly behind the first, and additional vents installed on top, for improved airflow.
They are awaiting test results to see if there has been a quality improvement.
Macadamia Farm Management
Bundy sort is a new dehusking and drying facility constructed by Macadamia Farm Management located at the Bingara sugar mill.
Scott Allcott, owner of Macadamia Farm Management explained they needed a facility to dry macadamias to maintain quality and eliminate their post harvest quality problems.
“In the past NIS was stored in silos outside, using only ambient air and we found our quality wasn’t as good as we wanted. So we decided to develop this facility to maintain the quality we are producing in the paddock” Scott said.
The system has the capacity to hold 300 tonne of NIS, in a Bungay style drying room, and uses shipping containers for bins.
“As we work across many growers and farms, the system has many bins, allowing us to keep each batch separately. It provides great information to benchmark each farm’s performance and adjust our management practices when needed” said Scott.
The facility utilises a multi-scan sorter to sort NIS after drying.
In the orchards, Scott has embarked upon spreading mill mud under trees to provide organic matter to the orchards and improve tree performance.
“Mill mud is a waste product from the sugar mill and we use trucks to run it out down the inter-row and then use a soil profiler to spread it under our trees. We are applying it at 100t/ha, with the aim to only apply it once every three to four years,” Scott said.
To provide access for trucks, tree rows are hedged back on the sides after harvest.
Since applying mill mud, Scott has found his tree feeder roots are spreading through the material, the incidence of phytophthora has decreased and production from trees has increased.
“It takes 12 months before you see results, but where we have applied it, trees are a darker green, are less sparse in the crown and our production has increased. We have taken blocks from two tonnes per hectare to four tonnes per hectare, and quality has also improved,” Scott said.
In addition to adding mill mud, Scott has also modified his fertiliser program to improve tree health.
Consolidated Nuts Australia
CNA , the only macadamia processing company located in Bundaberg is owned 50% by MPC, and has been designed to ensure extreme efficiency.
General Manager, Shane Johnson took the group on a tour of the facility.
The receivals area is highly versatile and can accept deliveries from a ute-load right through to a B-double.
The factory is equipped with a 750 tonne capacity Bungay style drying system that can dry NIS down to cracking moisture within seven days.
“The system is extremely efficient” explained Shane, “because we draw air from the ceiling cavity that has been warmed using energy from the sun, we only need to use our heaters a small amount,” Shane said.
On the factory floor the processing line is very short, which means few staff are needed to operate the line and as kernel moves short distances, there is less chance for kernel to be damaged.
The factory sets an industry benchmark for efficiency and quality.
Hinkler Park is owned by the Zadro family, covering 3000ha in the Bundaberg region. Trees range in age from 25 years to newly planted .
Clayton Mattiazzi, Farm Operations Manager, provided an overview of the recent precision nutrition management program.
It uses small, remote controlled planes and satellite images to determine the nitrogen status of trees to ascertain correct nitrogen levels needed to be applied.
It means application rates can be varied for each tree in a block.
To apply the fertiliser, a GPS system tells the spreader where it is and the spreaders controller varies the rate based on the location and information collected from the satellite image.
Clayton said: “Basically the map generated from the satellite image is entered into the spreader controller and the controller changes the rate automatically based on location. It’s early days using this system but it looks promising”.
The group visited the dehusking shed, where 100T of NIS can be processed daily. Most nut arrives partially dehusked, using on-board dehuskers fitted to harvesters. The shed has two sections, a dehusking section and a resorting area.
Clayton also explained that Hinkler Park are modifying their harvesters to increase their harvesting frequency.
“We are currently modifying one of our harvesters to be able to harvest the entire width of a row in one pass. If it works we will modify all of our harvesters”.
MacManagement have established and manage 275ha in the Bundaberg region.
Scott Norval, MacManagement’ s General Manager explained how this season they installed a dehusking system to cope with the increased crop size. It consists of a receival hopper, a surge bin to hold nut when harvesting faster than they can dehusk, and air sorters to remove husk and other foreign material before the sorting table.
“This season we have only sorted nuts once, straight after dehusking. Our quality results have been really good and hopefully we can continue to only sort once before we put the nut into the drying bins” Scott said.
This season MacManagement purchased a Monchiero harvester. “The harvester picks up everything. We thought our orchard was clean but after the first run with the harvester we found there were areas where it wasn’t as clean as we thought. The harvester has done a great job and we are really happy with it” Scott said.
Next year Scott is planning to run the harvester through the orchard for the pre-harvest cleanup to make sure it is clean.
Monchiero have been developing an on board dehusker that they have trialed at MacManagement. “The dehusker has worked really well, particularly on green husk. It is taking off between 80-90% of the husk” Scott said.
Monchiero are currently refining the dehusker and it is anticipated it will work even better next season.
The Steinhardt family own and operate Macadamias Australia, a vertically integrated macadamia business. They have a 120,000 tree orchard and have been developing new ways to improve efficiency.
“We were concerned about dehuskers breaking nuts and damaging the kernel inside and have been working on a new type of dehusker” Trevor Steinhardt said.
The dehusker uses a large rubber tyre with steel bars set around the outside. The nut passes between the tyre and the bars, and rubbing causes the husk to tear off. “As the tyre has a large surface area and the pressure can be changed, we are able to adjust it for each variety” Trevor said.
The performance of the dehusker has been impressive and Trevor found losses have decreased since implementing the new system.
In the orchard Trevor demonstrated a machine built to remove sticktights from trees, called “The Nut Whacker”. It has long plastic fingers set on a wheel off set from a main shaft that revolves as it is dragged down the row. The fingers penetrate through the canopy and cause branches to shake and physically knock sticktights from the tree. “This machine removes any sticktights and also removes some foliage from within the tree canopies. We have found it to be extremely useful and it has reduced the problems sticktights caused” Trevor said. Note: the dehusker and the nut whacker are patent pending and so we are unable to print a pictures of them at this time.
The Bundaberg trip provided great insight into some innovative and exciting developments in the macadamia industry.
Growers on the trip noted the typical Queensland enthusiasm and confidence and were impressed with the investment made in the future of the industry.
MPC thanks all growers visited for their time, information and demonstrations.