The most efficient and technologically advanced greenfield packhouse to be built in the Bay of Plenty for years is now taking shape on a massive 65,000m² site at The Lakes.
Post-harvest operator Mount Pack & Cool Ltd are building a leading edge packhouse from scratch to create the most efficient packing line possible and to substantially increase their capacity from six million to 10 million trays of kiwifruit per season.
Mpac Managing Director Jan Benes describes the new facility as a “triumph of technology and process design” and says it will drive competition among local post-harvest operators and ultimately help lift grower returns.
“Every element is optimised, and all movements have been minimised, to create substantial efficiencies which will allow us to deliver top quality fruit and sharp packing prices.
“Most packhouses are smoking hot in March and freezing in May. But this packhouse will have a controlled temperature from end-to-end, which will eliminate problems caused by humidity such as fruit labels not adhering properly.
“We'll also have a 1600m² curing room which can hold 6000 bins. Other operators leave their freshly picked fruit under canopies for a couple of days but we will cure ours in an optimal environment where heat and humidity won't affect its condition.”
The packhouse will span 25,000m² and will feature a packaging conveyor running directly above the fruit packing line to keep everything close together but discreetly out of the way.
“Health and safety is also a key consideration in our design. Our staff will be kept away from machinery and mobile plant, and our forklifts will move in a single direction to avoid collisions,” says Jan.
“The entire site will run on extremely low energy. Our new refrigeration technology will be twice as efficient as what we have at present and it will also be more environmentally friendly. This packhouse is phase one of our Lakes development and we're considering installing solar panels and a rainwater catchment in our future stages.”
Over 40 construction staff from Form are now building the new packhouse. It's situated on the biggest single site in the entire Lakes development and sits on an elevated platform at the southern end, adjacent to SH29.
Form Site Manager Karl Smith says approximately 850 tonnes of structural steel will be used and 7000m³ of concrete.
“We're currently on track to deliver early access to vital operational areas required for processing to start in accordance with next year's fruit season,” says Karl. “As a company we are very proud to be associated with a build that will be a world-class facility in the kiwifruit industry.”
Once the new packhouse is open and fully commissioned, Mpac will vacate its current site on Aerodrome Rd. Benes says all staff will transfer over and the operation will immediately be up and running – no extra staff are required and everyone's already fully trained.
“Our staff are looking forward to the move and have had a huge input into the new design – from its configuration to the décor. Our new central location should also make it easier to attract seasonal staff who won't have to travel out to Katikati or Te Puke to find work,” he says.
All plant equipment will be supplied by MAF Roda – a family-owned French company who are renowned for their advanced technology and reliability. “We have future-proofed our plant design so new technology can be added on as it becomes available without having to reconfigure or modify our set-up.
“We're confident this will be the most efficient packhouse in the Bay of Plenty. We're excited to see the physical building now beginning to take shape and looking forward to it meeting our clients' future needs.”