SW avocado grower heads abroad to grow industry

Headshot of Cally Dupe
Cally DupeSouth Western Times
Dudley Mitchell
Camera IconDudley Mitchell Credit: South Western Times

Bunbury avocado grower Dudley Mitchell plans to visit some of the world’s top avocado-growing regions to research canopy management of high-density orchards.

Mr Mitchell’s company Horticultural Consultancy and Management Services manages Avonova Farms, a 50ha avocado orchard at Pemberton producing 800 tonnes of fruit a year.

Mr Mitchell said he had earmarked several avocado orchards at Chile, North America, Israel and New Zealand to visit during his off-season next year.

“My project is about looking at the whole ecosystem of high-density orchards in terms of infrastructure, new technology for canopy management, planting densities and management methods,” he said.

“Chile is probably the world leader in high-density avocado orchards and I want to see what they are doing.”

Mr Mitchell said conventional avocado-growing methods, including high-density planting, often led to a decline in water and land resources.

He said profits across the avocado sector had plateaued with high-density planting also creating higher production costs during the first few years.

“Good land and water is becoming scarcer to get, and more expensive, so we are really trying to maximise productivity from the land we have,” he said.

“We want to produce avocados by the trees’ second or third year since planting, as opposed to its fourth or fifth.”

Mr Mitchell is a co-investor in a planned 50ha expansion of the Avonova Farms orchard, set to be rolled out during the next three years.

“One of the four pillars of the recent strategic investment plan for the avocado industry is to increase productivity by ten per cent without commensurate increases in production costs per kilogram,” he said.

“Higher density planting may deliver greater productivity initially, and at a similar cost of production.

“However, without effective canopy management productivity will decline earlier in the life of the orchard than with conventional planting methods.”

Avonova Farms also includes a pack shed which handles about 1700 tonnes of avocados a year.

Mr Mitchell’s Nuffield Scholarship journey will kick off in March with a six-week global focus program in Chile with five other Australian Nuffield Scholars.

His project is supported by Woolworths.

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