A Whangarei family growing raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and green and gold kiwifruit have won the Northland Ballance Farm Environment Awards. The Malley family own and operate their diversified horticulture business, Maungatapere Berries, just outside Whangarei.

Raspberries are the biggest berry crop, processed through a packhouse on the orchard, and sold domestically under their own Maungatapere Berries brand along with blackberries, and blueberries under the Eureka brand.

The awards judges said employee management was exceptional. “They have invested heavily and with compassion to provide opportunities and fair treatment for staff.”

The innovative use of technology underpinning all aspects of the business was inspiring and had facilitated its rapid growth. Business resilience was also at the forefront of the Malley’s decision making. “They have minimised risk with different crops and harvest dates aimed at maximising returns while creating labour efficiencies. Attention to detail is working to achieve exceptional results.”

Although operating as a conventional kiwifruit orchard, the Malleys have introduced a wide range of biological and organic pest and disease controls, as well as innovative biodiversity measures to support natural activities on the orchard.

Comfrey has been planted in the weed strip area underneath the kiwifruit vines, which traditionally would be heavily sprayed with glyphosate to control weeds. Its long tap roots bring up nitrogen and other minerals, dying leaves support the build-up of organic material and the bright blue flowers assist bees during pollination as a nectar food source and directional guide.

Other plantings of tree lucerne, apple mint, chamomile, lavender, hebe, rosemary, borage and forget-me-nots encourage and feed beneficial insects and natural predators. Cabbage white butterflies are scared off with home-made scarecrows, and pheromone traps are used to disrupt raspberry bud moth and tropical army worm. Predator mites, such as persimilis and cucumeris, are bought in and the natural predator orius helps control thrips and mites.