Stage one cherry planting complete at Mt Pisa

Twelve hectares of cherry trees have been planted at iconic Mt Pisa Station, Central Otago, as leading horticultural investment company Hortinvest completes stage one of its $15.5 million cherry development.

Mt Pisa Station landowners - the MacMillan family - were among the key investors who underwrote the planting as the development approaches the investment deadline of September 27.

The sheep and beef business has set aside 80 hectares of prime pastoral land for the venture as part of its plan to diversify into horticulture. The development will produce premium quality cherries for export from the summer of 2021-2022.

Hortinvest project and orchard manager Ross Kirk said stage one planting of 7,500 trees had gone to plan. The second and largest planting is scheduled for winter 2020 with the final planting set for winter 2021. In total, 53,000 trees will be planted.

"Irrigation is now being installed so we can start piping water (from the Clutha River) to the newly planted trees," Mr Kirk said.

"We're now also in the final stages of negotiations with several large investors looking to commit to Mt Pisa, with the project now more than 49 per cent subscribed," he said.

The Mt Pisa development is one of two $15.5 million cherry developments in progress in the region. Stage one planting at the Lindis River development at Lindis Peaks Station is also complete.

Mt Pisa cherry development
Caption: Eighty hectares of prime land at Mt Pisa Station has been set aside to grow premium cherries. Click to download high res image.

Cherries align with family's succession plan

Mt Pisa Station manager, Shane MacMillan said projected returns from the family's share of the cherry development would deliver as much as the whole farm would in a year.

"The intensive nature of cherry production means the returns come faster (than agriculture)," he said.

Mr MacMillan, his parents Murray and Jackie and sisters Nicki Cleave and Kendra Breen and their families will directly benefit from the development.

"Diversification - especially given current fluctuating wool prices - and succession planning were our objectives and this will help the business, no end," he said.

"We're lucky to have the land which is ideal for cherry production - as well as access to the Clutha River for water. It's happened pretty quickly since we started talking about it and, by this time next year, the second planting will be complete," he said.

The development is a small parcel of the 4,600 hectares that Mt Pisa Station owns in the region.

Mt Pisa Station landowners
Mt Pisa Station landowners, from left, Shane, Murray and Jackie MacMillan and Nicki Cleave. Click to download high res image.

Hortinvest's vertically integrated grower-packer-shipper investment model offers investors maximum returns by managing all services in-house including sourcing land, setting up and managing high-tech orchards and packhouses, marketing and exporting produce.

Since releasing Mt Pisa to investors in January, demand had come from a range of investors including individuals, syndicates and iwi groups from throughout New Zealand and overseas, Mr Kirk said.

With more than 30 years' experience in growing and marketing premium New Zealand cherries globally, Hortinvest had existing and developing markets for its cherries throughout Asia, Europe and the United States, he said.

When in production, the cherries will be harvested from December to February and take advantage of the growing seasonal and Chinese New Year market globally.

Mr Kirk said Hortinvest's developments were in response to unprecedented global demand for New Zealand cherries which were perceived as a luxury product. Future orchard projects for other fruit lines were also on the agenda.

"Investors who miss out now, will have other chances to invest in New Zealand horticulture with Hortinvest in the future. Our projects come backed with growing, marketing and exporting expertise."

Mt Pisa project at a glance

Value: $15.5 million
Hectares: 80
Water source: Clutha River
Existing and emerging markets: Asia, Europe
Minimum investment: $100,000
IRR: 20.8-25 per cent, first 10 years
ROI at peak mature production: 34-59 per cent

Located in Central Otago, New Zealand, Hortinvest Ltd is the leading consultant in New Zealand's emerging and highly profitable cherry and horticulture industry. Hortinvest employs world-leading orchard management and packhouse systems to produce and export premium New Zealand cherries.

(Issued: September 20, 2019)

Issued by Aqua Public Relations on behalf of Hortinvest Ltd. For more information please contact:

Ross Kirk
Project and orchard development manager
(02) 7484 5099

Toni Lucke
Aqua Public Relations
+61 7 3312 2505

Email Toni>