Grower Journal

From Spuds to Sprouts

Grower Journal
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Meet Alan and Andrea Buchanan, the passionate owners of Gropak, a thriving business with a 25-year history outside of Palmerston North. With their inspiring slogan, 'Dirt to Dish', Gropak has become renowned for distributing DELICIOUS potatoes nationwide. However, the dynamic duo recently took a bold leap by recognising an opportunity in the Brussels sprout market when other growers were pulling out. This year marked their inaugural season of cultivating these miniature cabbages, and it seems they hit the bullseye!

Brussels sprouts are a seasonal delight, harvested from February until the end of August. Curious to know more about the fascinating process behind these greens, we reached out to Gropak to uncover their secrets.

The journey begins in August when Brussels sprouts are meticulously propagated from seeds into seedlings, a task outsourced within Ōtaki. By the time they are ready for planting, these tiny sprouts reach a height of about 8cm.

Planting commences from late November to mid-December, and the process is staggered, ensuring a steady supply. Approximately 32,000 plants are carefully placed during each planting, and a transplanter comes in handy to streamline the work.

The team's dedication to plant guardianship shines from November to February as they continually monitor, weed, and provide essential fertilisation to ensure thriving growth.

When the time comes for the grand harvest, a dedicated team of 3-4 individuals takes to the paddock. The Brussels Sprouts are gently cut from the stalk at ground level by a specialised harvester. Subsequently, the machine operators process them through the cutters, resulting in the collection of around six bins or 300kg per day.

The journey doesn't end there. After the harvest, the Brussels Sprouts undergo a meticulous process in the packhouse. They are washed, graded, and sorted according to customer specifications. Even the smaller sprouts find a home, as they are carefully set aside for delivery to Wonky HQ.

No venture is without its challenges, and Gropak's first Brussels Sprout harvest was no exception. They had to weather the storm of weather events, precisely a dry period from late January to February 2022, which significantly affected the crop.

Undeterred, the Gropak team plans to continue growing Brussels sprouts next year, embracing the opportunity to experiment with exciting new varieties. To accommodate these changes and meet their customer’s expectations, the team is gearing up to upgrade their packing line, an endeavour that resonates with the ethos of the Wonky HQ team.

In the heart of the paddock stands Georgia Buchanan, the Brussels Sprout agronomist and the person behind the day-to-day operations. Together with Alan, she works tirelessly to ensure the success of Gropak's Brussels Sprout venture.

With the passion and dedication that Alan and Andrea Buchanan bring to Gropak, it's no surprise that their journey into Brussels Sprouts has been a triumphant one. As they continue cultivating these delightful greens and exploring new possibilities, their commitment to quality and innovation will undoubtedly leave a lasting mark on the industry.

Fact!

Brussels sprouts are named after the fact that they were cultivated in Belgium in the 16th century! This is why the correct spelling is 'Brussels' sprouts and not 'brussel' sprouts.

wonkybox

From Spuds to Sprouts

Hear about Alan and Andrea Buchanan journey as they expand their 25-year-old business, taking on the brussel sprout market with determination and success.
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