Hawke's Bay apple company Rockit Global is responding to "unprecedented demand" for its apples by buying land to build a bigger state-of-the-art packhouse.

The new facility is expected to bring more jobs for the region.

Rockit Global CEO Austin Mortimer said the aim was to open the 21,000m3 packhouse in the Irongate Industrial Park, in Longlands, Hastings, before the 2021 apple harvest.

"There is an unprecedented demand for our conventionally grown apples. The largest single export market for our apples is China.

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"The volume has increased on an average of 40 per cent, the demand is such that we have already sold out on total supply.

Jerry Hapuku, Kaumatua, Austin Mortimer CEO Rockit Global Ltd hongi at the new site for construction of a packing shed at Irongate Road, Longlands, Hastings. Photo/ Warren Buckland.
Jerry Hapuku, Kaumatua, Austin Mortimer CEO Rockit Global Ltd hongi at the new site for construction of a packing shed at Irongate Road, Longlands, Hastings. Photo/ Warren Buckland.

"Right now we have 200 hectares planted, the intention is to get to 800ha.

"With the new facility I expect us to hire upwards of 100 more staff in the next couple of years.

"By this time next year we would have relocated all our operation into the new facility."

2021 is expected to be the first year for "packing the apples" in the building.

Mortimer said the purpose-built coolstore, packhouse and global headquarters was a monumental milestone for Rockit Global, which as outgrown its Havelock North premises.

"This project signifies the growth of the apple industry in Hawke's Bay, and signals the coming of age of Rockit and a reflection of our confidence and belief in our product and brand.

"One of the many benefits of Irongate is the proximity to three of our existing orchards.

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"It also gives us scope for further expansion as we continue to grow, and the site is flexible, so we are able to use the space efficiently for packing and cool storage."

The build will take place over two stages. Stage one will create the new office suite, cool storage and highly automated, high spec packhouse, with a mezzanine level allowing packaging material to be gravity fed.

The second phase, earmarked for 2025, is likely to add further processing technology to provide further capacity for production through to 2030 and beyond.

"We have considered the footprint of the land and allowed provision to double the size of our packing area and finished goods storage. We've also considered possible expansion into further brand extensions.

"The space in the new facility will allow us to do innovation and development on robotics."

Jerry Hapuku, Kaumatua, Austin Mortimer CEO Rockit Global Ltd. Photo/ Warren Buckland.
Jerry Hapuku, Kaumatua, Austin Mortimer CEO Rockit Global Ltd. Photo/ Warren Buckland.

Consideration was also given to the company's ambition of doing no harm to the environment as it grew the business and built the new facility.

"We will be dealing with the treatment and discharge of all our own waste water, the refrigeration plant will have a zero global warming impact and we're looking into the use and placement of solar panels as a sustainable source of electricity."

Rockit Global has become world renowned for its miniature apples which are now sold in Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Europe, the US and in New Zealand.