Horticulture Innovation Australia (Hort Innovation) has announced a project to reduce Australia’s macadamia harvest window and save the industry A$30m annually.
The research is expected to improve nut collection options and reduce wastage by exploring new harvesting technology, farm equipment and different pruning methods.
Australian macadamia growers lose about 15 per cent of their crop either through missed nuts during harvest, or nuts falling outside of the harvest window, explains Hort Innovation CEO John Lloyd.
“In Australia, macadamia nuts are harvested mechanically from the orchard floor after they drop naturally from trees, typically between March and August. As a result, growers need to run a significant number of harvest rounds each season,” he said. “Not only does this take time, it can result in nut quality loss if they are on the ground for extended periods; nut maturities can vary and there is limited opportunity to fertilise, prune and mow during the harvest window.”
Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett said even a small investment in upgrades and better practices could see a 7 per cent improvement in yield.
With global demand for the nut continuing to outweigh supply, a slight increase in yield would dramatically improve profits, he said.
“Hopefully by the 2018 harvest the project will have identified areas where improvements in harvesting can be made which would be great news for Australian macadamia growers,” Burnett said.
The project is kicking off in April and expected to be competed by early 2019, funded by the Australian government and Hort Innovation, through the macadamia industry levies.
Colere Group, the University of Southern Queensland’s National Centre for Engineering in Agriculture, the University of Queensland and AgTrans Research are working with the Australian Macadamia Society and Hort Innovation to deliver to the research.