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My Harvest – Michael Napoleone, Red Rich Fruits

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Michael Napoleone and son Jack checking out this year’s harvest.

A milder season has helped deliver a very good apple and pear crop for Yarra Valley-based Red Rich Fruits, says owner and director Michael Napoleone.

Michael said quality was excellent and volumes were up in some varieties in a harvest that had started around 10 days late this season and would end this week.

Red Rich secured the Australian rights to manage WA38 (market as Cosmic Crisp®) last July and the first trees will be planted at the Yarra Valley orchards this winter.

Michael and his family has been growing apples and pears in Australia’s pristine Yarra Valley for more than 70 years. Michael’s son Jack and several nephews are already following footsteps in the family business, working in various roles across the company.

As well as the three apple and pear orchards in the Yarra Valley – they have recently purchased a fourth – Red Rich Fruits also own multiple other orchards across Australia producing stonefruit, mangoes and citrus.

A new 12,000 sqm packing facility and head office is located on the Coldstream site.

Michael said with orchards across the country, the business had acted quickly to manage the risks for the coronavirus pandemic.

Overall, we haven’t been too badly affected by Coronavirus,” he said.  “But we’ve been very proactive in managing the risks. For example, all staff now have their temperatures taken on arrival, many are wearing masks, and we’ve intensified our already strong hygiene, cleaning and sanitation processes.”

“It’s been a really good year for apples. We started harvest a little bit later this year – roughly 5-10 days later than last year’s harvest we think – but bin numbers have been up from last year so we’re doing really well. Overall, Fuji volumes were up on last year, and Granny Smith were about 35 per cent up, while Pink Lady Apples and Gala will be roughly on-par.

“Harvest began on 2 February, with the Alvina Gala®, and we’re just finishing up now with Pink Lady apples. Harvest will be finished on our Coldstream orchard within the next two days and we should be done across all of our orchards by about 10 May. Harvest for pears started in mid-late Feb with some early Packhams, followed by the Beurre Boscs which finished in early March.

We predominantly grow multiple varieties sold domestically as Pink Lady, Royal Gala, Granny Smith, and Fuji apples. We also contract-grow a number of proprietary varieties such as Kanzi®, MiApple®, and Bravo™.

“In terms of pears, we primarily grow Beurre Bosc and Packhams, and we currently have our own new red pear variety in development.

“Pears have been great this year too, with numbers of both Beurre Bosc and Packhams up and ahead of previous years – especially for Beurre Boscs.

Quality really has been 100 per cent across the board on both apples and pears. Almost everything is under netting, which really helps in managing quality. We had a really good summer heat-wise, but we have overhead sprinklers to help manage the heat anyway. We’ve also had plenty of water. We had a fair bit more rain this season than in previous years, so we were able to keep the water up to the trees, and we’re looking really good water-wise in the dams at the moment.

Cosmic Crisp

“Our own proprietary apple variety – WA38, branded as Cosmic Crisp® – is soon to be planted around our new Coldstream facility and on our newly-purchased property nearby, as well as with contracted growers.

“We’re pleased to have formally signed up a number of growers across Australia, and have exhausted our 2021 tree allocation. We’re now in the process of meeting with and appointing growers to begin planting from 2022.

“Late 2019 saw the commercial launch of Cosmic Crisp® brand apples in the US. By all accounts, its first commercial season in the US was highly successful so we’re excited to be bringing such an exceptional apple to Australia.”

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