A predicted record growth in fruit production in Central Otago means T and G Global is planning to build another four coolstores at its Ettrick site during the next five to eight years.
Site manager Rodger Brown, of Ettrick, said preparations were under way for the first coolstore, with construction planned to start before Christmas.
The cost had yet to be determined.
The 832sq m coolstore will provide an additional 25% of chilled storage capacity in response to an anticipated increase in apple production as thousands of trees start to fruit in the next five years.
“The apple production in Central Otago is growing at considerable rate,” Mr Brown said.
“Last year we were down in volume by about 20% with the colder summer, but it was still the third-largest crop at the time [that we had].”
The coolstore complex handles both apples and some export stonefruit as well as Central Organics fruit.
The company had geotechnical surveyors on site last week and reports would soon be completed. A building consent application would be submitted in the next few weeks.
Another coolstore had been built on site in 2015. Its construction included a large concrete apron and upgraded driveway in anticipation of the expansion.
The new coolstore’s interior would be able to be divided in two, to accommodate additional controlled-atmosphere equipment if required. The equipment is used to chill fruit and delay ethylene production, which encourages ripening.
Mr Brown said about 70% of the fruit was put through post-harvest treatments, which also halted the ethylene production.
“Using that in conjunction with controlled-atmosphere storage extends the life of the apple, with the fruit able to last up to 12 months in those conditions.
“They are looking to possibly start mid-December and it will be a similar building to the last one,” he said.
The company would possibly employ an extra person for the forklift operation at the new building.
Ettrick orchardist Con van der Voort planted about 27,000 apple trees in Earnscleugh last year, and intended to plant another 30,000 next year. Other orchardists were also planting, or planning to plant, more trees, pipfruit and stonefruit.
The new plantings were more intensive, with trees grown along wires, like hedges, and had about triple the production per hectare.
“Newer varieties are also being planted, including those in the Pacific series and the Fuji, and the good old Jazz.”
Earlier this year, the Otago Daily Times reported Pipfruit New Zealand’s chief executive Alan Pollard as saying crop estimates showed the 2017 forecast of 584,000 tonnes would eclipse the record of 560,000 tonnes set in 2004.