Business North March 2021

| 59 Seeka Seeka looking to expand capacity T Karen Phelps Seeka holds the exclusive rights in New Zealand to grow the GEM variety avocado, with 20,000 trees currently in the ground. HORTICULTURE S eeka is in the process of building a new 500,000 tray capacity coolstore, labora- tory, offices and amenities building in Northland due to be completed by February 2021. The project follows on from a 90,000sqm packhouse and grading machinery that was commissioned in early 2019. The new cool- store complements the company’s process capacity of 4.5m trays of kiwifruit. Seeka also processes avocados, citrus and some berry fruits and the facility will be used for these products as well. Seeka general manager of growers, Jim Smith, says the new complex will enable Seeka to significantly increase its cooling capacity to meet growing local demand. Seeka has identified the region as a growth area for both avocados and kiwifruit and establishing a post-harvest hub in Northland has been a priority. With an estimated 200-250ha of new kiwi- fruit plantings in the ground at the moment in Kerikeri Seeka is investing ahead to meet demand, he says. With new avocado developments in the area Seeka is also expecting demand for post-harvest facilities to increase. Seeka holds the exclusive rights in New Zea- land to grow the GEM variety avocado. With 20,000 trees currently in the ground – includ- ing 2000 in Northland - the fruit will start to come onto the market next season. It was in early 2018 that Seeka purchased T&G Global Limited’s post-harvest facilities in Kerikeri for the packing and storing of avoca- dos, kiwifruit and citrus. The deal also included approximately 80 hectares of orchards in and around Kerikeri. The new facilities replace the original T&G Global facilities and Seeka is also converting the orchards to higher producing varieties and selling these with supply agreements to Seeka in place. While ensuring the right infrastructure to deliver quality, price and service in its post harvest business, Jim says that Seeka recog- nises its role as a significant employer in the region and is aiming to support and contrib- ute to the local economy through investment and employment. This includes staff – the facility will include a gymnasium and Seeka also offers flexibility around hours of work and employment ad- vancement opportunities as well as an active cadetship programme. “We have a great team of local people and ensure regular contact with our grower com- munity to help them perform better within their orchard gate. “For example we’ve held a range of soil seminars with a focus on soil health, longevity and sustainability. “So it’s about investing to support our existing growers along with the tremendous support of new growers choosing Seeka as their post harvest service provider.” Seeka is also seeking to create new employ- ment opportunities in the region – orchard, post harvest and laboratory functions. It is working with the Ministry of Social Development and local iwi to put together a training course to bring local people into the workforce. “It will cover a range of things such as health and safety, personal fitness, and more specific industry skills such as forklift operation to get people work ready to hit the ground running,” says Jim. “We’re very excited to be part of the Northland equation - delivering a high performance, high quality service to growers along with a range of great new employment opportunities.” “We have a great team of local people and ensure regular contact with our grower community to help them perform better within their orchard gate.”