The Provincial Growth Fund will invest in the rapid expansion of a labour intensive, high-tech hydroponic berry growing operation in Northland, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced recently.
Family-owned Onyx Capital Limited will receive a loan of $2.37 million for the first phase of expanding its operations, which will see an extra four hectares of hydroponic berries planted and create 45 full-time local jobs.
"The Coalition Government knows regional New Zealand can’t put all its eggs in one basket when it comes to economic development. This is another example of the PGF investing in a diverse range of industries to grow provincial economies and provide jobs and training into the future for their people," says Shane.
"Berries are increasingly popular both in New Zealand and overseas. This initiative we’re investing in looks to produce high-value fresh, frozen and processed raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, which are well suited to covered hydroponic growing."
Onyx Capital Ltd operates its hydroponic berry operation, Maungatapere Berries, from a 30-hectare site in Maungatapere, near Whangarei. It focuses predominantly on kiwifruit, however expanded into hydroponic berries in 2015.
"Maungatapere Berries’ expansion of its existing small-scale business will help introduce a new export industry into Northland and create a centre for hydroponic excellence for other growers," says Shane.
"Hydroponic cropping has huge potential for Northland through its sustainable growing system. It offers crop protection from climate change, provides optimal growing conditions, increases yields and reduces the use of water and fertiliser.
"New Zealand needs to invest in hydroponics to maximise the potential of our horticultural sector, or be left behind by our competitors.
"Long-term, Maungatapere Berries is looking to add to its current education and training programme for staff. It will build on its current pay structure by introducing a shareholding scheme to provide additional benefit and financial returns to reward well performing full-time staff," he says.
"Maungatapere Berries wants its staff to benefit from its growth and development, which will also feed into improving social outcomes for them and their communities. This is what high quality regional development looks like."