Sam Chapman and his extended family run Murray Eden Avocados near Barham in southern New South Wales.
The area around Barham is perhaps better known for dairies and irrigated crops, utilizing irrigation from the Murray River. Dairy is still a large part of the Murray Eden business, but for the past five-years property owners Phil and Brendan O’Neill have been planting and harvesting avocados.
The decision to plant 30 hectares or 8,500 avocado trees centered around diversifying income streams after a difficult period for dairy farming.
Sam admits he didn’t know anything about avocado trees when he returned to the farm after working as a diesel mechanic.
“I relied heavily on advice from our agronomist early on, I had to learn everything from scratch,” he said.
Two years ago, Sam was introduced to horticulture consultant and avocado expert, Roop Sandhu of Thomas Elder Consulting (TEC).
“Roop is an expert in his field, he is a very patient person who takes the time to explain his thought process to me. Early on, I’d call Roop once or twice a week and he was always happy to help. Roop still visits the farm once a month and is a great resource for new ideas.”
The orchard is currently at 30 per cent production and yield has exceeded expectation.
“We have just harvested our three-year-old trees and I estimate we’ve averaged around 3.2 trays per tree which we were very happy with.” Sam said.
“We are only just moving into our five-year-old trees which have reached production maturity. These trees look very good and I expect we’ll achieve around 300 bins which is well above our initial budget,” he explained, referring to the original 200 bin budget.
Sam credits several variables to the successful crop this year, especially Roop and his forward thinking.
“Roop is really proactive, he doesn’t wait to ask me if I’ve done something in the orchard, he reminds me what’s coming up and makes sure I understand,”
“This puts the orchard in the best possible position to make the most out of the season.”
This season and beyond
Avocado prices are well down on last year, which is a combination of supply and demand factors.
Sam explained that by managing to increase their level of production they were able to offset the lower prices.
“It all starts with making the most out of the soil and the inputs, getting that right has improved yield and cost of production,” he said.
Murray Eden avocados has an exciting future and will be aided by Roop and Thomas Elder Consulting, helping to bring a proven system of continuous improvement and expert advice.
Sam concluded, “we are always looking for new ideas to differentiate our business and Roop is very much a part of that conversation, often pitching ideas of his own, we look forward to continuing to work together.”