News and Success Stories

Published 27 June 2024

Europe trip demonstrates how technology can drive change for NZ kiwifruit grower

Meet Daniel Kenna, orchardist and R&D Manager at KWKIWI, based in Tauranga. Earlier this year, Daniel flew to Europe as part of the New Zealand delegation at FRUIT LOGISTICA, before touring farms and orchards in Spain with NZTE. We caught up with Daniel to get his read on one of the world’s most complex and exciting horticultural regions.

How did seeing the massive horticulture industry of Europe change your perceptions of what New Zealand does?

Yes, absolutely. I’d say domestically that we’re less complex, as we’re just a smaller economy, but export-wise, it’s still very complex. It gave me a big appreciation for what happens with our products once they arrive – it’s certainly not the end of the journey.

What the European system really impressed upon me is that companies have to work together to achieve a smooth-as-possible supply chain and delivery of product. And, that there’s a need at every level of the supply chain to innovate, automate and become as effective and efficient as possible.

What was a highlight of FRUIT LOGISTICA for you?

Some of the technology was awesome. There was a testing device that used microwave technology that was super interesting to me! We have other versions of it that use a different kind of technology here in New Zealand, but it seemed that there might be a benefit of using a different way of measuring and let's just say, I wanted to put one in my suitcase and take it home.

What were the major themes of the event?

A lot of people were talking about different environment concerns that boiled down to how we we are producing the food that impacts on the environment. Discussion of plastic usage was a big one.

For us Kiwifruit growers at the Zespri stall, it was really about solidifying relationships with customers over there. Which is incredibly important for for us, given that challenging few years that we've had. They were understanding and appreciative of the time that that spring and I guess I was taking to tell them how the season was looking how exciting it was.

What did you see that surprised you in Spain?

It is so, so dry. The south of Spain is like a desert – the soil out there is red ochre. I’ve never seen anything like it before. It is such different growing conditions to what I’m used to.

But at the same time, Spain produce most of Europe's food. And they've got to be very good, very good at what they do, because of not only the local challenges, but the legislative challenges that they’re facing.

How are Spanish growers innovating to get around those problems?

I guess a highlight for me was a company called Assert, who develop and manufacture technologies for effective and efficient water use. They’re best in class in terms of what they developed for filters and water systems for irrigation. We actually use them on my home property, and so it was just great to be able to see that product in the field, and how they're using it.

The second way that I thought was interesting was Biobased. They’ve integrated pest management by supplying bumblebees to 40,000 hectares of greenhouses to help with pollination. They also supply little, essentially, predator pests that they released en masse into these greenhouses to tackle the pests that are eating the vegetables and damaging the vegetable plants.

That was was very impressive. And you wonder, what can we do here and what can we use here in New Zealand?

How has the trip inspired you to try out new technologies on the KWKIWI orchards?

When I got back, I gave a presentation to my family who I work with on the top four technologies and the top four companies I saw to better understand how we can adopt what they do.

I’d like to take these lessons and not just use it to change what we're going to do on the orchard, but help inform perhaps the direction of the kiwifruit industry. How can we best get ahead of issues like climate change and apply those learnings sooner rather than later?