When an aggressive hail storm tore through northern Victoria on January 2nd, fruit grower Hardev Bhatti wished more of his orchard was under protective netting.Heavy hail and strong wind stripped trees of leaves and damaged plums, apples and pears impacting about 4,500 bins of fruit.
But, six hectares of Inspired Ag’s retractable netting over Hardev's Granny Smith apples, provided full protection. The Ardmona grower said the netting and structure was strong enough to withstand the extraordinary force of the storm.
He is now looking forward to harvesting about 1200 bins of apples which he says look like premium produce.
“With the cost of fruit growing these days, you have to invest in protecting the crop; you really need that insurance to know you can improve packout and have a crop to harvest at the end,” Hardev said.
“This was our first season with the net and we are glad we got it done before Christmas. The hail storm was like nothing we have seen before. It was heavy and it went for ten minutes. It was devastating.
“The structure held up really well. There are no rips or tears. We are very happy.”
Footage taken by Hardev during the January hail storm in Ardmona. This reveals just how strong his structure is - it provided full protection for his Granny Smith apples.
While the netting was retrofitted to an existing orchard, Hardev said any future orchard plantings would need to include crop protection in the initial design.
Sunburn was the primary reason Hardev installed netting but hail mitigation is now an equal draw card.
“The result is that we have really good quality fruit. We used to get 20% sunburn and now we have zero. That will improve our packouts and we can see already the results,” Hardev said.
“There is an additional cost to closing and opening the retractable netting but it is a small price to pay. You get that back in the quality of the fruit and with the hail, definitely."
Inspired Ag managing director Chris Turnbull said the netting at Hardev's orchard was a smart and strong solution for hail and sunburn.
"This robust structure is built to withstand a storm such as the one that passed through in early January and Hardev's success is a good testimony that the materials we use will provide that protection," Chris said.
"I worked closely with Hardev to retrofit this structure and it is rewarding to see his family receive a great result after the weather that growers have now endured for the second year in a row."
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