Business South Dec / Jan 2022

| 63 PRODUCTION Heinz Watties - Christchurch Really putting the ’pea’ in production Richard Loader Peas are Heinz Watties number one and biggest crop, with 220 Canterbury growers feeding into the Christchurch plant. Canterbury pea growers are amongst the best growers in the world, says Greg Noller, Agricultural Manager South Island at Heinz Watties NZ. “I’m really proud of what our growers do. They’re very aware of their environment, have a good crop rotation and appreciate the need to incorporate livestock when appropriate. Growers are very mindful of maintaining soil and soil quality. T “The rotation in Canterbury is some of the best agricultural management in the world, and Heinz Watties is part of that total rotation programme.” Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in Christchurch last year, Heinz Watties was established on the very same Shands Road site that is its home today. Peas are Heinz Watties number one and biggest crop, with 220 Canterbury growers feeding into the Christchurch plant, with significantly smaller crops of broad beans, beans, carrots and potatoes. A little bit of kumara from the North Island and swede from a Southland grower is also processed. In addition to processing lines that either freeze or dehydrate the produce, the plant’s packing line packs produce into retail packs for domestic and regional sales, with larger shippers for international markets. “Our focus is to draw crops from within one and a half hours drive of the factory. For our peas we have a freeze timeframe of no more than four hours from harvest to freezer. “Our harvest is probably the longest compared to other processors in the world. For peas we do thirteen weeks whereas if you look to Europe, you’re probably seeing a fourto-six-week harvest window. “So, during those thirteen weeks we’re processing 24/7. We really have to be on the ball as far as scheduling our crops and making sure they come in on time whilst considering the vagaries of weather.” Greg says one of the biggest challenges facing growers is increased costs and Heinz Watties has sought to mitigate that by increased yield through the selection of good genetics. “For growers of peas, beans and broad beans we’re constantly doing trials to assess the right varieties and sourcing the seeds from the breeding companies. “We provide the seeds to the growers at our cost so that we can manage the varieties and the timing of planting, while increasing yield. We also provide agronomic advice in respect to nutrition, disease and pest control and when to spray weeds.” In addition to the New Zealand market, Heinz Watties products are exported to a broad range of countries including Australia, Middle East, Europe, Asia including India, China and Japan, and the United States. “The maximum residue levels of sprays have become a critical part of our business and every country has its own unique requirements that we must comply with. “That means we must keep up to date with those changes so that we’re not exceeding the requirements. “We are now starting to focus on biological methods for disease control, identifying living organisms in the environment that will compete with the pests and diseases and keep them under control.” Compliance with environmental issues regarding water, nutrition and greenhouse gases is another challenge for growers. Greg says there is both strong awareness and a will from the growers that the environmental issues need to be addressed. There is however significant work and cost in meeting these challenges. “The biggest contributor to greenhouses gasses that arable growers play a part in is nitrous oxide which is linked to nitrogen and therefore synthetic fertiliser. So, we have a focus on matching the nitrogen application to when the crop needs it and only putting on the right amount and no more. All our growers’ value and respect their land and want to pass it on in better health to the next generation of growers.” “Our focus is to draw crops from within one and a half hours drive of the factory.” LEESTON SEEDS LIMITED For all your seed cleaning, treatment & storage requirements - Dressing all grasses and clovers - Brassicas, grain and peas - Seed treatments - Storage - Seed mixing Station Street, Leeston Phone: 03 324-3806 Email: Proud to support Heinz Watties Christchurch Premium Peas are proud to support Heinz Watties Christchurch Premium Peas is a subsidiary of Smith Seeds Ltd