22/06/2020 - 22:09

Water key for Alterra to deliver on Avocado strategy

22/06/2020 - 22:09

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ASX-listed Agribusiness developer, Alterra Ltd has turned the earth at its operation near Pemberton as it ramps up activity towards September this year when it intends to plant out the first five hectares of avocado orchard at its 300-hectare Carpenters project in WA’s premier south-west growing region. Alterra said water management would be key to delivering success at its institutional investment-grade agricultural asset.

ASX-listed Agribusiness developer, Alterra Ltd has turned the earth at its operation near Pemberton as it ramps up activity towards September this year when it intends to plant out the first five hectares of avocado orchard at its 300-hectare Carpenters project in WA’s premier south-west growing region.  Alterra said water management would be key to delivering success at its institutional investment-grade agricultural asset.

The company is clearing a total of 95ha of the property and plans to complete the planting of the entire area sometime next year as part of phase one of its total land development. 

When fully planted out, Carpenters will represent about 10% of the avocado plantings in WA and one of the largest avocado plantings in the country.

Whilst only gaining access to the site 10 weeks ago, Alterra said it has advanced an asset and cost optimisation study, completed site investigations, mobilised contractors and started preparation for the phase one planting.

Alterra’s managing director, Oliver Barnes said: “The Carpenters Project possesses significant water development potential within the heart of a premium horticultural region. By developing infrastructure to capture and store this water Alterra is able to repurpose the blue gum plantation at Carpenters into an asset producing high-value crops such as avocados.”

The company said it has dam engineering and cost optimisation studies underway, with WA-based Galt Engineering appointed to conduct geotechnical studies for the property’s dam sites.  Alterra said Galt’s initial site investigations have shown the potential, subject to approval, for significantly larger water capture and storage capacity via two dam sites with further potential to secure irrigation scheme water from the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, once it is completed.

Management said it has construction approval for dam site one to build a 3.0 gigalitre dam that should hold enough water to fill 1,200 Olympic-sized swimming pools.  Land preparation has also been completed for Dam site two where a second 1.8 gigalitre dam will be installed.

Three-phase power will be installed at both dam sites according to the company.

Alterra said the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development estimated 7.5 megalitres of water per hectare was required for avocado production in the Pemberton region.  The estimated water required to support a 300-hectare avocado crop at the Carpenters Project would therefore be approximately 2.25 gigalitres per annum and Alterra said it will continue to explore opportunities to conserve water and improve regional water security.

Mr Barnes added: Alterra offers investors an ethical way to capitalise on the rising value of water by developing agricultural land with water entitlements and identifying land activities that generate a higher value use for this water.”

Alterra said it has engaged global irrigation leader, Netafim, to assist it to implement an intelligent precision irrigation and fertigation system capable of increasing yields and shortening the period for return on investment.

Alterra, in collaboration with Netafim, recently ran a series of irrigation trials on the soils at Carpenters in order to optimise water delivery and nutrient efficiency within a targeted root zone.  The trials indicated a potential saving in water and power requirements were possible, in line with other Netafim results achieved with avocado producers in Israel and on the East Coast of Australia.

Mr Barnes said: “By using the knowledge and data provided by our local execution partners, coupled with a simulated onsite irrigation trial, Alterra is using the feasibility period to fine tune the irrigation and fertigation design.

Alterra said it has secured tree production capacity at South West avocado nursery, Wildwood, after Wildwood showed it had successfully grafted its own budwood genetics onto rootstock at a commercial scale.  Having recently expanded the nursery to accommodate the Carpenters Project, Wildwood now has capacity to produce 30,000 young avocado trees per annum which equates to around 100 hectares of plantings per annum.

Alterra said it had sourced the budwood genetics from another WA producer, the French’s Group, via its intellectual property agreements secured back in November last year, to ensure solid growth rates for the crop.

The company said it gained access to superior genetic information from avocados being selectively produced by the French family over 30 years of commercial-scale avocado production.  French’s Pemberton farms contains over 32,000 trees producing more than 5.8 million of the nutrient-packed, high-value fruits per year.

 

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