Two Bay of Plenty avocado growers have been judged AVOCO’s top performers after back-to-back stellar production seasons.

Kevin Hogan of Whakamarama collected AVOCO’s top Grower of the Year prize and was named Team Avocado Grower of the Year at the export marketing company’s recent grower meeting at Mount Maunganui.

Maria and Andrew Watchorn, orchardists in Omokoroa, also collected the evening’s other major trophy after being judged Grower of the Year for Primor.

AVOCO is in its seventh export season after Team Avocado Trust and Primor agreed to pool their grower resources and jointly supply premium quality fruit to Australia and Asia. Every year it recognises growers for top production and export packouts, averaged over the previous two seasons.

This year’s recipients are no strangers to awards, with the accolades coming two years after they both received Grower of the Year prizes at a similar event. That year, the Watchorns won the overall top honours.

This time, it was Kevin’s orchard production figures of 20.2 tonne/ha and packout rate of 73%, averaged over two years, that nudged him ahead.

Delighted with the win, Kevin says his figures simply reflect the fact his block is warm, sheltered and fertile.

“With global warming, there are very few frosts. But I try to keep on the ball as things can change very quickly in the orchard, so I don’t hesitate in responding to signs of bugs and phytophthora.”

A former senior constable in the Tauranga Police’s Commercial Vehicle Safety Team, Kevin bought the property in 2002 as a run-down citrus orchard and pine tree block. It originally featured about 70 citrus trees and an abandoned greenhouse that just grew weeds. In his spare time, he planted 167 avocado trees and transformed the block into a high-performing orchard.

Now semi-retired after four decades in the New Zealand Police, he’s focussed on producing consistent crops on his home orchard and four other avocado blocks that he manages.

Kevin says he follows best orchard management practices and still relies heavily on advice from technical experts, including AVOCO’s technical manager Colin Partridge and consultant Jerome Hardy.

“I always get soil and leaf samples done at the optimum time and then I follow the fertiliser recommendations. Everyone needs to comply with the recommendations from reputable consultants.

“Colin, Jerome and Danni van der Heijden in the technical team at AVOCO are on the ball with their advice.”

The Watchorn’s property at Prole Road consistently produces a high quality crop every year, reporting production of 17.4 tonne/ha averaged over the past two seasons. Attention to quality and best practice has led to an export packout of 71%.

The couple, who have been avocado orchardists for 15 years, believe there’s no formula for success, but agree that benefits come from having a passion for what they do.

Maria says the business of growing means you never stop learning.

“I believe there is still so much to learn but we are always willing to be open-minded and absorb any new information fellow growers and the industry have to offer.”

Maria and Andrew’s approach to growing avocados has always been to set high standards, gather around like-minded people, then “go for it”.

“It’s all about being present, having a passion for what we do, having a drive to succeed and every day doing the very best we can.”