Olives New Zealand

Focus Grove Project



FOCUS GROVE PROJECT – “Meeting the increasing demand for New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil”

Current Status
Olives New Zealand received funding from the Sustainable Food and Fibres Futures programme for a new Focus Grove Project – “Meeting the increasing demand for New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil”.

The new project started in October 2019 and ran for three years. The aim was to increase production further by 5kg per tree. A number of growers also asked for  more organic alternative to the intensive spraying programme implemented/employed in the previous project. Thus as part of the new project, alternate approaches were developed, monitored and bench-marked.

New Zealand consumes approximately 4m litres of olive oil annually of which the New Zealand produced product makes up less than 10%. There is therefore a significant opportunity for local producers to increase their market share.

The two biggest challenges facing the local producers is productivity (the ability to supply) and the cost structures. While there are more than 350,000 trees in New Zealand capable of producing more than 1m litres of olive oil, currently production is around 1/3 of that figure. The industry is also challenged with biennial bearing and other factors (disease, weather) that can devastate a potentially increased harvest.

The previous Focus Grove Project aimed at “Increasing the Market Share for NZ EVOO” ran from July 2016 until March 2019. It was extremely successful in identifying basic grove management practices to enable the industry to consistently lift production and also reduce costs. The key success factors were the implementation of an intensive and proactive spraying programme to control disease and a regulated pruning programme to maximise efficient olive production and encourage new growth. The Focus Groves and others following the same methodologies have been able to lift production to at least 25kg per tree on average and on an ongoing basis – the project target had been 15kg!

However, demand for NZ EVOO continues to exceed current supply capability. Lifting productivity further is necessary to enable the industry to meet this demand.

The Project

The main outcome of this project was to increase production by 5kg per tree, from 25kg per tree to 30kg per tree annually. A desired secondary outcome was an alternate/more organic approach to the current requirement of an intensive spraying programme.

The project used the following methodologies.

  1. The service of an expert consultant was contracted who has demonstrated expertise in successfully researching and implementing strategies for improving orchard production.
  2. Five focus groves were established in each of the main regions. These groves have demonstrated a commitment to the principles of current best practice and have a well-established baseline. They were responsible for implementing and trialing new approaches, measuring outcomes and hosting Field Days to share their experiences.
  3. Other groves were selected for their alternate approaches to grove management to be visited as part of the Field Days to review and record their approach and to benchmark. The project consultant provided advice to these alternate groves as required.
  4. Field Days were held twice annually to share the knowledge, demonstrate application and review the outcomes. As above this would not only include the focus groves but also groves who have adopted alternate approaches.
  5. Reports were produced after each Field Day to detail the strategies trialed, results and future recommendations. This enabled broad communications which can be used by the industry, other sectors with similar issues, for researchers and as a basis for media articles.
  6. Fact sheets on key findings were issued as soon as successful strategies are identified.
  7. Project synopsis was presented at the Olives NZ Conference and be available to be used at other conferences, nationally and internationally.

The Focus Groves as follows: 

Northland Olives on the Hill 435 King Road, Mangawhai Chris & Linda Smith M
Hawke’s Bay Aquiferra 2158 Maraekakaho Road, Hastings Tim Groves & Jess Arthur M
Wairarapa Leafyridge 244 Dakins Road, Masterton Craig & Ruth Leaf-Wright M
Bella Olea 1975A State Highway 2, Greytown Chris Penman O
Nelson Kakariki 209 Redwood Valley Rd, Richmond, Nelson Ray & Brenda Gregory M
Canterbury Terrace Edge 328 Georges Rd, Waipara Valley, Amberley Bruce & Jill Chapman M/O
Hawke’s Bay Project Consultant   Stuart Tustin  
Kapiti Project Manager   Gayle Sheridan  

The project will be funded as follows:
$43,520 Sustainable Food and Fibres Future programme
$43,980 Industry contribution (i.e. Olives NZ members)
$21,300 In-kind costs incurred by Focus and other groves.

Focus Grove Field Days
The new project started in October 2019 with the first round of Focus Grove visits and Field Days. There were subsequent rounds of Focus Grove visits and Field Days in March 2020, October 2020, April 2021, October 2021 and March 2022.  The above photo was taken at Terrace Edge Grove, Canterbury in March 2022. There will however be a final visit to Olives on the Hill, Northland as visits scheduled for 2021 did not happen so a catch-up Field Day was held in September 2022.

All of the original Focus Groves visited as part of the Field Days that have been following the recommended programme for proactive disease management and canopy management have reached an exemplary stage and are exemplars for the wider olive growing industry in New Zealand. For other groves following the recommendations, the results are apparent in their harvest tonnage as well as their observations on overall grove health.
The vastly improved tree health is apparent across all of the groves visited with very little or no disease and plenty of lush leaf. The tree structure also across these groves has dramatically improved, enabling light and spray penetration and ease of effective harvest. Typically these groves harvest significantly more fruit than their regional average and have addressed biennial bearing.

Our project featured on the Rural Delivery TV programme
It was also featured by the Olive Oil Times in March 2022 

Documents pertaining to the projects are listed below.

SFF&F Milestones
SFF&F Project 19025 November 2019 Milestones Report
Organic Approach Fact Sheet – November 2019
Fact Sheet COVID-19 Checklist for Hand Harvesting and Processing Plants
2020 SFF&F Project 19025 March Milestones Report
2020 Grove Census Harvest Data Report
2020 Focus Grove Conference Presentation (1)
2020 SFF&F Project 19025 October Milestones Report
2021 SFF&F Project 19025 April Milestones Report 
2021 Grove Census Harvest Data Report
Disease Management Fact Sheets – updated October 2021
2021 SFF&F Project 19025 October Milestones Report
2022 SFF&F Project 19025 March Milestones Report
2022 Grove Census Harvest Data Report
2022 SFF Project Completion Report

For more information on the previous Project “Increasing the Market Share for New Zealand Extra Virgin Olive Oil” see the following documents:

2016 Project Startup Meeting Minutes
2016-17 SFF Extension Plan
Increasing the marketshare for NZ EVOO – presentation by Stuart Tustin October 2016
SFF Project 404831 Milestone M03 First Report – November 2016
2017 SFF Project 404831 Interim Project Status Report
SFF Focus Grove Project – Diseases Fact Sheets
SFF Project 404831 Milestone M06 – Regonal Field Days March 2017 Report
2017 SFF Project 404831 M07 and M09 Third FocusGroves and Field Days Report
2017 SFF Project 404831 Milestone M09 Conference Presentation
Olive Canopy Management Fact Sheet 1
Disease Management Fact Sheets – updated November 2017
Canopy Management Fact Sheet 2
2018 SFF Project 404831 M10 Milestones Report
2018 SFF Project 404831 M10 Milestone Report – Appendix
September 2018 Executive Officer Report
September 2018 Executive Meeting Minutes 
2018 SFF Project 404831 M14 & M15 Milestones Report
2018 Conference Presentation
Anthracnose Bulletin – October 2018
2019 SFF Project 404831 M16 & M17 Milestones Report
2019 SFF Project Completion Report – 404831

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Focus Grove Project

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