It’s been a long and arduous journey over the last three years but finally LeaderBrand’s first stage, a smaller three-hectare greenhouse, is nearly complete and preparation of the soil has now begun.
The project team has been battling global freight issues, labour shortages, a global pandemic including a wave of omicron locally. There have even been severe weather conditions which paused building and lead to some minor structural damage.
Gordon McPhail, LeaderBrand’s General Manager Farming is excited to now be focusing on preparing the soil for the first trial crop.
“The soil is extremely compacted from several years of construction including telehandlers, concrete mixers and cherry-pickers.
“We’ve already had the tractors in breaking-up and turning over the soil to start to get it back into a healthy state for planting. This is a crucial stage and is going to take several weeks to complete.
“We’re starting to use all the specialist equipment we’ve built into the greenhouse including the water storage, treatment and overhead irrigation system, new vent system and applying our made in-house compose to the soil to support the soil biology.
“Under cover farming will be a massive change to the way we currently farm but we think that this style of farming will be the way of the future. The first lot of crops is going to be a lot of trial and error but we’re really looking forward to the greenhouses helping to mitigate most weather impacts and supply variations while allowing us to explore more technology and farm more sustainably.
“We’ve had a terrible couple of months of storms and loads of rain which impacts our planting and harvesting programmes. The goal is to have a more consistent crop supply that will ultimately ensure that we can keep feeding New Zealand with healthy fresh vegetables at a more consistent price,” he says.
The first trial crop is planned for mid-July and construction continues on the bigger eight-hectare greenhouse set for completion early next year.