|Students listening to Maurice Balle talk about Balle Bros|
After our first full night of sleep, our group was ready to start our first day of agriculture tours. Our first stop was at Balle Bros where we were welcomed by Maurice Balle, who explained the company practices and showed us around the operation. Balle Bros is the largest vegetable producer in New Zealand. They produce potatoes, onions and carrots as well as wheat and barley as a cover crop. The majority of their company produces potatoes, at 60,000 tons per year. Balle Bros was started by seven brothers, and 18 family members currently work for the company. Since the New Zealand government restricts the use of GMOs, Balle Bros uses special practices to meet these requirements. Although it makes farming a challenge, Maurice Balle, explained that it has helped increase sales. As a whole, the company has 6000-7000 acres of total crop land, owning 60% and leasing 40%. Maurice stressed the importance of quality over quantity within their company. Since New Zealand is a major export country, Balle Bros strives for a quality product that will meet the demands of the consumer. One of the highlights of this stop was eating fresh carrots and potatoes straight from the conveyor belt, and students were given a few bags of each to bring back on the bus with us.
|Students inspecting a shipping container|
|Students touring the warehouse at Balle Bros|
|Kelly Holt, Maria Weber, and Ashley Reiner enjoying carrots at Balle Bros|
|Worker sorting onions at Balle Bros|
After our visit with Balle Bros, we traveled to our next destination, Hira Bhana Bros Vegetable Growers. With the operation planting on 1500 acres of land, this company produces potatoes, onions, carrots as well as cabbage, cauliflower, and lettuce. Potatoes and onions are their main source of production. While talking with one of the managers, we were able to view their production and load out area. Between both the Balle Bros and Hira Bhana companies, our group learned about New Zealand’s vegetable industry and production practices that are followed.
|Seth Gutz and Bennet Baker inspecting lettuce at Hira Bhana Bros vegetable growers|
|Scott Schroeder, Seth Gutz, Hattie Cramer, and Kylie Lessman watching potatoes being packaged at Hira Bhana Bros|
One of the highlights for many students happened shortly after; we were taken to a tourist location where we were able to overlook the countryside and take in the beauty of New Zealand landscape. This was a chance for many of us to take scenic pictures and enjoy a pretty view. Next we stopped for lunch where we had various options for food. Many of us enjoyed lunch at the Adobaun Café where they served a variety of foods such as pastries, coffee drinks, and main entrees.
|Students enjoying break off of bus|
|Students eating at the Autobahn café during their lunch break|
Our last agriculture tour of the day took place at the AgResearch Center, where we discussed their research on the Meat and Dairy industries. Our speaker, Dr. Cameron Craigie, grew up on a deer farm and then went on to study genetics and business. His main interest, however, is within the meat industry, where he has studied how to maximize/capture value from carcasses. AgResearch is the largest crown research institute where it has 767 staff members and 524 scientists. Their main focus is to partner with producers since they export 92-93% of their meat. Agriculture is the largest employer in New Zealand with 25,000 employees. Dr. Craigie also discussed the 2017 food trends among consumers. They included the following: In tradition we trust, power to the plants, waste not, time is of the essence, the night shift, and balancing the scales. He further explained the importance of each trend and what the New Zealand agriculture industry has done to respond in order to meet the needs and requests of the consumer. During his presentation, Dr. Craigie explained to us what producers need to improve and work on in order to keep moving forward. This includes telling their story, sharing the value with producers, nutrition, increased focus on product and consumers, and looking at meat as a nutritional ingredient. Within the meat industry of New Zealand, meat grading is not routinely used. This is due to the fact that the beef industry focuses on a lean value carcass and most beef is used as pasture management. Cameron views the lack of grading as a missed opportunity, and hopes to see progression in this area in the future. AgResearch has helped to create the food safety and science research center. Some of the projects they are currently working on include the following: intramuscular fat and pH in lamb, the omega lamb project, unlocking red meat protein function, food molecular mapping, proteomic and peptidomic evaluation of muscle types in Angus steers, food microbe host interactions, rapid analysis of protein damage, making steaks, healthy hamburgers, super premium new Zealand pet food, and capturing the value of New Zealand meat program.
|Talking with Dr. Cameron Craigie at AgResearch|
Kathryn & Maria