Napier is hosting a group of top United States and Canadian fruit-growers for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The International Fruit Tree Association's (IFTA) annual conference - with 200 US and Canadian guests as well as 70 from the New Zealand and Australia produce industries - is being held at the Napier Conference Centre today.

The North American visitors are also taking part in an IFTA study tour to visit orchards and industry leaders in Hawke's Bay, Nelson and Timaru.

Fern Ridge Fresh supply manager Mike Van Workum, who organised the Hawke's Bay leg of the tour, said the group had been split into two. The first 100 participants experienced the region's best orchards on Friday and Saturday and the next 100 would do so tomorrow and Wednesday.


The tour was a great way to show top international producers how well Hawke's Bay and New Zealand was doing in the market and let the international guests experience the region, he said.

"New Zealand is leading the edge in apples ... the production of new varieties.

"We've got a lot of varieties that have been super successful."

Many of the most successful apple breeds in the US came from New Zealand, he said.

The tour had been popular; tickets sold out 10 minutes after going online.

The conference and tour is held in a different country each year and was last held in New Zealand, also in Napier, in 1990.

The conference attendees would learn about different ways the country is transforming the industry in terms of innovation.

The day-long event has highlights including a seminar on robotics in fruit tree production, a panel discussing robot-ready canopies, a presentation about the benefits and risks of integrating protective netting into apple production, and workshops in horticultural strategies and benchmarking orchard performance.


The Hawke's Bay part of the tour included a visit to various orchards to learn about production, variety breeding, commercialisation, fruit maturity, harvest management, modern orchard systems and the integration of technologies.

There was also a visit to NZ Plant and Food Research to learn about ongoing fruit tree research.

The group also got to experience Te Mata Peak, some wineries and had a day off to explore the rest of the region.