Heinz Wattie's building $4 million beetroot storage facility

By Patrick O'Sullivan -
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Heinz Wattie's is building a $4 million beetroot storage and grading facility to improve quality control.
Heinz Wattie's is building a $4 million beetroot storage and grading facility to improve quality control.

Heinz Wattie's is building a $4 million beetroot storage and grading facility the size of a rugby field as it moves to more closely monitor quality control.

Heinz Wattie's managing director, Mike Pretty, said the new facility in Hastings was part of more than $25 million of capital investment in 2016.

"Having our own beetroot storage and grading will help lift and maintain quality of the products produced," he said.

"We are utilising our land at Tomoana, adjacent to our three existing operations there " the plant which prepares dressings, jams, chilled soups, pouch sauces and frozen meals, our distribution centre and the petfood plant."

After storage and grading of the locally grown root vegetable it will be transportated to Wattie's nearby King St plant for processing.

He said beetroot had become a big part of the Heinz Wattie's business in Hastings over the past five years and the company made significant investment in field and processing activities.

The facility will be ready for the coming season. It is made up of a 7000sq m concrete pad with a 3000sq m canopy, to process the annual crop totalling 24,000 tonnes, half of which is used in exported products. Less than five years ago, Wattie's was growing and processing less than 11,000 tonnes.

Mr Pretty said the investment was yet another sign of the confidence in its Hawke's Bay agricultural operations and processing capabilities.

Already under way is a two-year, $480,000 research project to develop accurate beetroot crop scheduling and management in Hawke's Bay.

He said it aimed to improve the ability of growers and the company to produce beetroot to specification, regardless of growing conditions.

Another project with local application the company invested in was a bumblebee research project with artificial nest boxes. This project is co-funded by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), Zespri, Avocados NZ and Summerfruit NZ, in association with an $8.2 million Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment investment.

Mr Pretty said bumblebee colonies were critical to the health of Hawke's Bay's horticulture, and this research programme was cross-sector as it aimed to deliver new pollination systems applicable in multiple settings.

"Improved pollination rate means better yields, and benefits for our growers, as well as our business," he said.

"We are already beginning to see the benefits on one of the supplier farms, Mike and Julie Russell, who grow the famous black doris plums."

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