Hawke's Bay Rockit Apples moves into South Island in partnership with Turley Farms
Innovative Hawke’s Bay company, Rockit Global Limited, is expanding its footprint across the country, with the first Rockit apples now growing in the South Island.
Rockit Global Chairman John Loughlin says, in the next 20 years, horticulture has the potential to transform the rural Canterbury landscape.
“Growing apples uses significantly less water, requires markedly lower nitrogen inputs than either dairy or arable production and, as a perennial crop, doesn’t require annual cultivation.”
Rockit General Manager Commercial Tom Lane says a key part of Rockit’s strategy is geographical diversification.
“Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne remain home for Rockit, but we are looking to ensure the long-term resilience of our growing footprint. We are using climate scenario modelling to identify new growing regions and see Canterbury becoming a prime region for horticultural production in New Zealand in coming years.”
Rockit’s first South Island partner is the highly-regarded Turley Farms.
“Murray and Margaret Turley have a well-deserved reputation as excellent growers at the forefront of innovation and diversification. We are proud to have them as our first commercial partner in the South Island,” says Lane.
The Turleys have been significant and innovative producers in Canterbury for more than 50 years, transforming low productivity, dry crop and stock properties into high-value vegetable and arable land.
In 2012, they bought into Dairy Holdings which runs 63 dairy farms and 20 support blocks and, the following year, created Farmers Mill, which produces all the flour for Griffins NZ. The state-of-the-art facility allows local growers to mill their own wheat, demonstrating the Turleys’ strength in collaborating with other farmers and like-minded businesspeople. Onion processing plant, Southern Packers is another of their ventures.
In 2021, Turley agronomist Dominic Cosgrove visited Hawke’s Bay to study the viability of planting apples on a Turley property in Rangitata. The resulting trial orchard, planted under the 2D system with dripline irrigation, gave the Turleys the confidence to align with Rockit.
The joint venture between Rockit and Turley Farms has seen an initial 20 hectares of Rockit™ apples planted this year. The parties are looking for a third partner to join them to take the total development to at least 100 hectares over the next three years. An Information Memorandum is planned to be released this month, where qualified parties will be invited to inspect the development in November.
Murray Turley, CEO of Turley Farms Ltd, says Turley Farms began exploring the potential for growing pip fruit in South Canterbury two and a half years ago.
"During this exploration, Rockit™ apples emerged as a standout opportunity, offering excellent eating characteristics, a unique consumer proposition and brand, great growing support and premium returns for growers. After 15 months of discussions, Rockit and Turley Farms are thrilled to announce the establishment of a joint venture, marking the beginning of a new era for the pip fruit industry in Canterbury,” says Turley.
Winner of the Supreme Award at the 2022 New Zealand International Business Awards, Rockit is a Kiwi export success story despite challenging conditions, now selling into more than 30 different territories, including China, India, Vietnam, the USA and UAE.
“We are seeing significant growth in our existing markets, alongside rapid expansion into convenience channels where our Rockit™ apple packs meet the growing consumer demand for a healthy, unprocessed, on-the-go snack. We’re creating entirely new occasions for apples,” says Lane.