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A Queensland pineapple grower says the good weather during the growing period, has led to some nice sized fruit compared to previous years.
Third generation growers Michael and brother Peter Ottone run Ottone and Sons business, in Far North Queensland, and say that the crop this year has also been bigger than in previous years.
"Price-wise, when we started picking in September the prices weren’t too good," Peter said. "Prices picked up in October/November but then dropped again in December to the point where it was below the cost of production. We ceased sending our fruit to market this month (December) but we’re still keeping our local suppliers stocked over the Christmas period."
Photo source: Ottone and Sons Instagram page
The farm is located at Bilyana, south of Tully, and Michael added that demand for pineapples is quite good throughout the year, depending on the quality of the fruit on the market.
"Stone fruits come in from October to December so the pineapples are competing with other stone fruit for market share, especially in December," he said. "Consumers can expect a plentiful supply of quality fruit on the market and value for money. We mainly target bringing our crops in after September through until approximately January, however this year we started picking fruit in August. Last year we didn’t have a really big crop so we didn’t start picking until October. We had a bigger crop this year so we spread that out more to try and pick up better prices, we basically just target certain times of the year which is usually from September to January. That’s with our conventional Pineapples, our Organic produce is different again. We grow Smooth Leaf variety but we mainly focus on the 73-50 Hybrid variety."
Peter explains that the company markets the conventional pineapples through NQ Paradise Pines packing shed in Rollingstone where they supply the markets at all major states and cities. The reach is steadily improving, but it is not just pineapples that have been produced on the farm in previous years.
"Our Father started growing pineapples in 1970, when we finished school the boys come on the farm and started growing bananas and more pineapples," he said. "From there, we ventured into sugarcane and diversified into other crops over the years. We stopped growing bananas in 2000 due to an oversupply on the market and started to focus more on our sugarcane and pineapples. In 2010 we trialled growing organic pineapples, since then we have increased our production and currently have approximately 8 hectares of organic pineapples. We have approximately 8 hectares a year of organic pumpkins, 20 hectares of conventional pineapples and 110 hectares of sugarcane."
The Ottone family have also introduced and refined some growing techniques too along the way, including using compost tea on our conventional and organic pineapple crops since 2010 with excellent control of phytophthora root rot and better soil health, which Peter says is a huge benefit to the farm and the environment.
"After implementing the use of compost tea on our farm, we were so impressed with the results that we started SmartBugs Australia. SmartBugs Australia supply ready-to-use Microbe Tea Brewing systems and living soil inoculants in order for people to harness the natural power of microbes. We supply farmers, horticulturists or even the average backyard gardener with the equipment and knowledge they need in order to make high-quality compost tea."
Now the company is expanding its produce range, to include pumpkin seeds, according to Michael. Ottone and Sons ran trials over the past few years but he admits that the cost-benefit was not there, so they are still undecided whether we will continue this crop next year - but they did learn some valuable lessons.
"We learned about this idea after attending a Soil Innovation Tour in Victoria, one of the farms we visited was Australian Pumpkin Seed Company’s Pepo Farms," he said. "We didn’t know anything about this crop before the trip but after visiting the growers we were interested to give it a go. We have done a trial with the pumpkin seeds in 2020, then this year we got ‘fair dinkum’ and put 5 hectares in. We planted this year’s crop at the beginning of July and found that as it got closer to harvest time the produce was quite sunburnt and therefore affected the ease of harvesting. If we were to produce this crop again, we would benefit from planting earlier in the year (March) when it’s cooler and the sun doesn’t burn the crop as much."
For more informationMichael Peter OttoneOttone and [email protected] www.instagram.com/ottoneandsons
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