Hothouse operation ripe for the picking

4:19 PM Friday May 11, 2018 True Commercial

The 6000sq m property has accommodation, a reservoir and eco-efficient heating system. Photo / Supplied

The freehold land, buildings and going concern business comprising a large-scale hothouse tomato production operation at Riverhead are said to have great potential for expanded output.

The 6000sq m hothouse property — complete with accommodation, reservoir and an eco-efficient heating system — is set on rural-zoned land just northwest of Auckland City.

Bayleys northwest agent, Allan Maclean, says horticulture is also a presence in the area better known for its small sheep and beef farms, lifestyle blocks forestry and dairying.

Maclean says the 2.72ha freehold property, at 1292 Coatesville-Riverhead Highway, has substantial glasshouses, with associated plant and machinery.

“It’s very well established, having been developed over some 14 years. Now it can be being offered as a ‘turn-key’ operation, with tomatoes on the vine ready for harvest, plus a long-standing wholesale supply contract in place,” he says.

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The business produced 22,000 trays of tomatoes during the 2017/2018 financial year. Photo / Supplied

Maclean lists two residential dwellings on the property — a five-bedroom single-story brick-and-tile dwelling, plus a similar style four-bedroom residence. Both are low maintenance and less than 11-years-old.

The catalogue of horticultural infrastructure and plant linked to the property, includes:

  • two hothouse complexes;
  • galvanised iron machinery and plant storage shed;
  • a commercial-sized reservoir supported by an industrial-grade water pumping and hydration plant;
  • waste oil-fuelled boiler heating plant, with substantial oil storage tanks; and
  • two dwellings used as the owner’s abode, and for potential staff quarters

“This is a high-stud glass hothouse production method with its automated hydroponic feeding and watering system. It combines with an industrial energy-efficient heating plant and irrigation from a consented purpose-built commercial reservoir. This enables truss-grade crops to be grown for almost 11 months of the year,” Maclean says.

“Irrigation for tomato-growing comes from a specifically-formed reservoir on site, fed by reticulated water run-off collected from the hothouse roofs.”

Under its current format, the tomato growing, harvesting and packing operation is staffed by four full-time employees.

Picked tomatoes are packed within the hothouse via a moveable platform system, and are sold to an Auckland wholesaler. Product is delivered three times a week.

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The reservoir is supported by an industrial-grade water pumping and hydration plant. Photo / Supplied

The business generated $790,000 of wholesale tomato sales in the 2017/2018 financial year from 22,000 trays of crop — with 98 per cent of the crop sold as premium-grade truss tomatoes, and the remainder sold as loose tomatoes.

Maclean sees potential to expand the site’s hothousing capacity by at least a further 2000sq m.

A rear quadrant of the property is currently undeveloped flat bare land, and additional under-utilised flat land is situated between the existing hothouses and the boundary hedgerow.

“Depending on any new owners’ strategy, these spaces could be brought on line either straight away, or as part of a longer growth plan,” he says.

“Additional commercial hothouse structures could either be used to grow tomatoes, or to sustain such new crops as spinach, cucumber, capsicum, coriander, chilies or berry fruit to add diversity to the site’s business model.

“As well as the reservoir water supply the property can draw water from a consented bore, which is capable of sustaining expansion of hothouse activities on the site.”

Maclean says one of the large sheds on the property could be converted relatively easily to sustain vegetable crops requiring minimal light exposure. These could include mushrooms, rhubarb, beansprouts, chicory or asparagus.

“With the existing heating and irrigation infrastructure in place, crop diversification would be relatively simple for most professional horticultural operators to instigate,” he says.