A kiwifruit packhouse in the Bay of Plenty is set to invest millions of dollars in expanding its operations, in a move that promises to create hundreds of jobs in the area.
Mount Pack & Cool will start work in January on the fourth stage of a development plan to expand its post-harvest facility at the Tauriko Business Estate in Tauranga.
Once completed in 2022, it will be the largest post-harvest site in the country, with the capacity to handle 24 million trays of Class 1 kiwifruit.
Mount Pack & Cool general manager Brendon Lee says the "significant investment" comes as confidence in the kiwifruit industry continues to skyrocket.
"When we moved into the site in 2018 we were doing six million trays and this year we did 12 million and we're forecasted to do 15 million trays next year - so we're doing well with the grove and it's exciting to be part of," Lee told Dominic George on Magic Talk's Rural Today on Thursday.
Lee said the 6.5ha site originally had a 25,000sqm custom-designed bin curing room and packhouse, 10 coolstores and eight controlled atmosphere (CA) coolstores. An additional 10 coolstores and six pre-coolers were put in in May this year, as stage 3 of the facility's development - increasing the company's coolstore capacity by a further 2.3 million trays.
The stage 4 investment will add another technically advanced packhouse and bin curing room, 17 CAs and four additional coolstores.
"It will essentially double our current capacity and set us up for the next three to five years nicely," Lee said.
Some green kiwifruit orchards will also be converted to gold, with the company expecting to handle even more gold in the future.
"The future is definitely in gold, that's where most of the growth is coming from and to be able to harvest it in a timely fashion and get that fruit off in the sweet spot - we need to harvest in quite a small window - and to do that we are putting the fruit into controlled atmosphere stores and then bringing it out later to be packed and shipped direct to the market."
The company says it expects to employ around 500 seasonal staff, in addition to 100 permanent staff next year.