Whangarei berry growers first business to pay back Provincial Growth Fund loan

The business now grows raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
The business now grows raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Photo credit: File / Getty

A family horticulture business in Whangarei is the first company to pay back its Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) loan.

Maungatapere Berries borrowed $2.28 million in July 2019 to invest in the first phase of a plan to rapidly expand its high-tech hydroponic berry growing operation in Northland. It paid back the loan last week.

Patrick Malley, from Maungatapere Berries, said as well as allowing the company to expand, the loan had also helped his business to employ staff for a longer period of time. 

The company employed 56 extra full-time employees, with up to 180 people employed during the peak picking season, which runs from August to June.

"Our business was able to investigate alternative crops which enabled us to provide a reliable 12-months of work to our employees," said Malley.

"We were able to train our new people through the development phase and have provided many of our full-time employees with ongoing tertiary training and extensive pastoral care."

He said the fact the loan was able to be repaid quickly was "a great indicator of how hydroponics can be commercially successful and also deliver increased employment opportunities to the Northland region".

The berry growing business expanded its hydroponic operation by 4.2 hectares, and it now includes raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.

The Provincial Growth Fund is managed by the Provincial Development Unit.