2020 Apple & Pear Harvest Wrap-up with Michael Napoleone | Blog
Michael Napoleone is the Owner & Director of Red Rich Fruits. His family has been growing apples and pears in Australia’s pristine Yarra Valley for more than 70 years. In this Q&A, he discusses how a milder season has helped deliver a very good apple and pear crop for Red Rich Fruits in 2020.
Can you tell us a little about your apple and pear orchards and what you grow there?
We have three apple and pear orchards situated in Coldstream, Wandin East and Wandin North in Victoria’s Yarra Valley; and have recently purchased a fourth. Our new 12,000 sqm state-of-the-art packing facility and head office is located on the Coldstream site.
We predominantly grow multiple varieties sold domestically as Pink Lady, Royal Gala, Granny Smith, and Fuji Apples. We also contract-grow a number of proprietary varieties such as Kanzi®, Miapple®, and Bravo™. Our own proprietary apple variety – WA38, branded as Cosmic Crisp® – is soon to be planted around our new Coldstream facility and on our newly-purchased property nearby; as well as with contracted growers. In terms of pears, we primarily grow Beurre Bosc and Packhams, and we currently have our own new red pear variety in development.
When did harvest begin?
Our 2020 apple harvest began on 2nd February, with the ‘Alvina’ Royal Gala Apples, and we’re just finishing up now with Pink Lady Apples. Harvest will be finished on our Coldstream orchard within the next two days and we should be done across all of our orchards by about May 10th. Harvest for pears started in mid-late Feb with some early Packhams, with Beurre Boscs following in early March.
Overall, how has this year’s harvest been?
It’s been a really good year for apples actually. We started harvest a little bit later – roughly 5-10 days later than last year’s harvest we think; but bin numbers are up from last year so we’re doing really well. Overall, Fuji volumes are up on last year, and Granny Smiths are about 35% up, while Pink Lady Apples and Gala will be roughly on-par.
Pears have been great this year too, with numbers of both Beurre Bosc & Packhams up and ahead of previous years – especially for Beurre Boscs.
How is quality looking this year?
Quality really has been 100% across the board on both apples and pears. Almost everything is under netting, which really helps in managing quality. We had a really good summer heat-wise, but we have overhead sprinklers to help manage the heat anyway. We’ve also had plenty of water. We had a fair bit more rain this season than in previous years so we were able to keep the water up to the trees, and we’re looking really good water-wise in the dams at the moment.
How has COVID-19 affected you this year?
We’re very fortunate that overall, we haven’t been too badly affected by Coronavirus, but we’ve been very proactive in managing the risks. For example, all staff now have their temperatures taken on arrival, many are wearing masks, and we’ve intensified our already strong hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes. We’re enforcing social distancing on the orchards and in the packing sheds and have reduced onsite staff numbers and extended lines in some instances to facilitate this.
What are you harvesting now?
We’re harvesting Pink Ladies now and the colour has come up beautifully. It was quite a heavy crop, but we managed to get the fruit off in two picks this year. We’re expecting to wrap up picking at our Coldstream orchard in the next couple of days, and at Wandin East by about May 10th.
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