Fruitgrowers acknowledge contributions to industry

Two men making a big difference to Hawke's Bay growers were honoured last night at Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association's annual awards in Havelock North.

Plant & Food Research scientist Mike Malone was awarded the Joe Bell Trophy for services to the industry. Mike has been a plant breeder at Plant & Food Research, and its predecessors HortResearch and DSIR, for over 40 years. Since 1991, he has led the summerfruit breeding programme and the development of a number of commercially-successful new summerfruit cultivars.

Originally from Canterbury, he started his scientific career breeding green beans, onions and tomatoes. A move to Blenheim saw him begin his involvement with apricot breeding. In 1991, Mr Malone joined the fruit breeding team based in Havelock North. Since then, he has been involved in the breeding of 19 peach, plum and apricot cultivars and three apple cultivars for the home garden, with more in development. He is also responsible for maintaining the National Cultivar Centre.

The Fourneau Trophy for innovation was awarded to Kim McAulay for his Tow & Blow frost protection machine, which he believes to be the first truly portable wind machine.

The prototype won the 2012 Innovation Award at the 2012 Eastern Horticultural Field Days in June.

While the first machine was still a month or two away, he has pre-sold more than 20 machines to customers in Iran, the United States and Turkey, for $35,000 each. Qantas had also been inquiring about the machines as a way of keeping ice off aircraft.

The Tow and Blow has an eight-blade impeller that rises to 7 metres above the ground. It can be towed behind a tractor or ute to its operating position, similar to a cherry picker. A 23-horsepower engine positioned at the top allows for 85 per cent of its power capability to go directly to the impeller.

It uses five litres of fuel per hour and blows away from the machine's tower.

McAulay said it was much more efficient than most other machines that used up to 35 litres of fuel an hour.

"If you've got 30 of them on your property, look at the fuel saving," he said.

Coming from an orcharding family, McAulay knew all too well how crucial wind machines were to actually producing a successful crop.

"It's the difference between a crop and no crop. It's no different to a plague of locusts stealing your crop. Frost takes your entire income. One wind machine can protect, on some real high value crops, up to $300,000 worth of produce."

See Heartland next week for a list of accolades.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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