VIDEO: Seven Fields leading the way in citrus farming

By: Anna Game-Lopata , Photography by: Andrew Britten, Video by: Andrew Britten

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Established in 2010, citrus producer Seven Fields has already distinguished itself by winning two major awards last year. Anna Game-Lopata visited the company’s Sunwest property in Mildura to see how it’s all done.

With the 2014 Victorian Exporter of the Year and 2014 Woolworths Agriculture Supplier of the Year awards under its belt last year, citrus producer Seven Fields is on its way to becoming one of the best in the business.

According to Seven Fields managing director and co-owner Richard Byllaardt, it all boils down to careful management.

"On the farms we don’t take any short cuts," he says.

"We give the tree exactly what it needs in terms of a fertiliser and water regimes, pruning and technical management. We have people measuring the fruit to make sure it’s the optimal size when it’s picked and when it comes to the packing shed we’ve invested in state-of-the-art technology which is very soft on the fruit, grades and sorts it correctly and ensures the right fruit goes in the right boxes."

Seven Fields Richard Byllaardt
Seven Fields managing director and co-owner Richard Byllaardt

Byllaardt says both awards are a very pleasing result for the whole company.

"We started in 2010 with one container of oranges worth $66,000 sent to New Zealand and last year we would’ve exported nearly 300 containers worth $6.5 million," he says.

Seven Fields has five farms in the Sunraysia region of Victoria located about 30km south of Mildura. The company also presides over a mango and citrus property in Katherine in the Northern Territory and four large-scale vineyards in the Limestone Coast and Riverland regions of South Australia.

In 2010, Byllaardt and business partner, executive chairman Greg McMahon founded the business. Seven Fields has a history going back to the mid-1990s when Byllaardt contributed to the planting of its first vineyard in SA in association with the then McGuigan Wines.

Extensive citrus and mango plantings followed. Irrigated by the Murray River, the Sunraysia region with its Mediterranean climate now boasts more than 1,000 acres (about 405 hectares) of Seven Fields citrus trees and Byllaardt says more land is available for planting.

Richard Byllaardt And Anna Game Lopata
NFM managing editor Anna Game-Lopata talks citrus farming, drip feed irrigation and more with Seven Fields co-owner Richard Byllaardt.

Byllaardt also spoke of his experiences in Israel during the early 1990s where he was introduced to the advanced technology of drip feed irrigation on a kibbutz.

"The system had been in use in Israel for 25 years at that time, but it was very new and unique in Australia," Byllaardt explains.

 "You have to have very good filtration systems, very good understanding of how much water you need to put on a plant," he adds.

The drip feed method of irrigation is now used throughout the Sunraysia region and all over the world.

You can find out more about Seven Fields’ operation and its farming methods in the upcoming issue of New Farm Machinery magazine, on-sale December 29. Subscribe now to never miss an issue. 

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