Achachas won’t be in the shops until December however things are happening at the Achacha plantation.
Palm Creek Plantation is located in the Burdekin region, close to the Invicta Sugar Mill which gives us ready access to bagasse, a valuable organic matter for our soil. Molasses, another product from the sugar process, is also sourced locally. Both are excellent foods for good soil microbes and fungi which are part of the soil food web, and as the Achachas require a dominance of fungi in the soil we have been helping this process. Using local inputs reduces costs and increases sustainability.
Vetch and chia are being trialled as green manures between the trees. The Power of Duck, a wonderful book, was the inspiration to plant vetch which will hopefully encourage more ducks onto the plantation with a bonus of duck poo, a great fertiliser. Weeds can help too – adding diversity and bringing minerals up to the surface, making them available for the surface roots. Rock dust, a source of minerals, has again been delivered from a local quarry and spread over the plantation; the soil microbes help break the rock dust down making the minerals available for the trees. We are lucky to have a like-minded neighbour who has been making a rich bio-fertiliser using manure from his cows and other local natural inputs which he uses for his mangoes and zucchinis; we have purchased a considerable amount of this to add to the soil along with the bagasse. Regular applications of kelp, fish and our own brewed liquid composts are other very important inputs for soil and tree health.
The Achacha trees hang low to the ground and pruning the lower branches is necessary to enable the spreading of the compost and to monitor the irrigation system. After a wide search we have added a state-of-the-art hedger, presently one of only three in Australia, which makes this process much more efficient. The prunings are mulched and thrown back under the trees adding more nutrients to the soil.
Insects can be a very good indicator for what is needed in the soil and these are being closely monitored by a specialist who visits the plantation each week. Our manager, a soil expert, is backed up by two excellent plantation workers. We have a very handy and friendly neighbour who is busy right now helping us in adding a lunch area to the packing shed ready for the 50 or so pickers who will be required in December for the harvest.
The Achacha plantation is located in a picturesque area of North Queensland surrounded by wetlands which are frequented by an amazing number of local and migratory birds, including brolgas, 13,000 of which were counted at a recent census. Many also make regular visits to the plantation along with a population of agile wallabies and other native animals. Right now we have 25 hives amongst the trees and the bees are busy making Achacha honey from the Achacha blossom.
Recently we were approached by a highly regarded Knightsbridge store for images for their brochures; that was the first we had heard that the Achacha had been on English shelves – talk about starting at the top! (We subsequently found out that it had reached Harrods via our agent in Paris). At the world’s largest fruit fair, Fruit Logistica, in Berlin in February, we took out third place in the Innovation Award; in Melbourne recently we were one of five finalists in the Produce Plus Marketing Awards. Locally, amongst other things, we joined in the fun at the Taste Burdekin part of the Burdekin Water Festival in Ayr and Feast of the Senses in Innisfail, Australia’s wonderful tropical fruit showcase.
See you in December!