Orchard visit: Nelson, Catherine & Matt Collett, Ellesmere

February 2019

Like Sally and Joe, the Colletts’ orchard is close to Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere, and so it can get very wet which means they have put in open drains and a swale to help drain their property. One flood took half the harvest into the lake.

The orchard of 2000 trees was planted 15 years ago and gave them a 2 tonne crop last year (1 kg per tree), and so far this year is looking better. They are also affected by the easterly wind, and where they have struggled to get shelter belts established the hazel trees have been knocked around, but where there is more shelter the trees have grown bigger.

In the orchard, Nelson uses 750kg of fertiliser applied in spring and autumn. This is Yarra complex, which is similar to Nitrophoska blue + trace elements. Sprays used include Roundup, Granstar, Pulse and Nail (Farmlands used to stock it as Hammer). Nelson finds Nail more effective than Buster. Block 2 was heavily affected with big bud mite about 4 years ago (when you don’t know what it looks like, it’s difficult to spot), they now control using sulphur spray 3 times (early and mid-September, then the first week of October).

Nelson and Matt are both engineers, and they have developed some impressive machinery to help them manage their harvest. First up was a converted hopper that uses a drum roll to shake off sticks, stones and other rubbish until the nuts are clean. The nuts are washed, and once clean the nuts are bagged and hung on a drying rack which is then put into a container that has been modified to pull air through so the nuts dry quickly. They have built a large shed for storing nuts, and developed a large cracking machine and conveyor-belt set up to crack and sort nuts very efficiently. The shed has a commercial kitchen where they are planning to develop a range of products for sale.

Cleaning system: a large hopper feeds into a rotating horizontal drum with holes for water to penetrate.

The Colletts’ cleaning drum

Nuts hanging to dry in onion sacks

Nuts hanging from the drying rack

Motorised nut cracker feeding onto a conveyor belt

Cracking machine

Motorised nut cracker

…and sorting conveyor