Reliable testing supports New Zealand’s biggest export crop

Hill Labs is New Zealand’s leading provider of sampling and testing services to the kiwifruit industry.

In 2020, Hill Labs grasped the opportunity to become the largest provider of kiwifruit sampling and maturity testing services to Zespri, who oversee the distribution and marketing of New Zealand kiwifruit around the world. Armed with a well-established testing reputation, they were a natural front runner to take on testing in the Bay and beyond.

Brad Stevens, Hill Labs Branch Manager – Bay of Plenty, says the team rallied quickly to put its best foot forward, helped considerably by a proven testing record and strong technical and software development capability.

“Hill Labs was responsive to very tight timeframes, and following the RFP process, we were awarded the contract in September 2020. The team then focused on establishing and fitting out a brand-new Bay of Plenty Laboratory complete with local staff and specialised equipment and software to suit Zespri’s requirements.”

Less than 150 days after signing the contract the lab began testing its first samples.

Now, Hill Labs works closely with Zespri and KVH (Kiwifruit Vine Health) and rural supply merchants and consultants, drawing on more than 30 years’ experience developing analysis that is specific to the New Zealand situation, supporting an export industry worth $2.7 billion annually.

Hill Labs collects Kiwifruit samples from orchards across Auckland, Waikato, Coromandel, Bay of Plenty and Whanganui. Residue samples are collected for testing at Hill Labs Hamilton-based lab and other Zespri nominated labs. Maturity samples are tested at Hill Labs Bay of Plenty lab for a range of tests including weight, firmness, colour, dry matter, brix and seed colour.

Brad says the local team in the Bay are proud of the important service they provide to the kiwifruit industry and the relationships they’ve forged in the area, including employing a stable of loyal seasonal workers.

“Our team swells to more than 300 during the kiwifruit season from March to June, and it goes without saying they are the backbone of what we do.

“Many of our seasonal workers come back each year, which is testament to the relationships we have here and the value of our people.”

27 May 2024

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