Andre and his wife Helen have built a successful business, not just in kiwifruit, also planting avocado trees and continuing the family dairy operation.
“In 1890 my great grandfather came here from Ireland, my father and his brother farmed it successfully for a number of years,” Hickson says.
“I came back in 1983 just after my father Pax Hickson planted the first vine in 1979 and we grew a diversified business with dairy and kiwifruit.”
That strategy has helped protect them over the years.
“We’ve lived with dairy being up and kiwifruit down and vice versa,” he says. “So one has subsidised the other when the markets haven’t been kind to us.”
Hickson is quick to point out while it’s been a rocky ride, it has been fun.
Latest research from ANZ outlines the growth forecasts and challenges facing the sector.
Biosecurity remains a big risk, and combined with other challenges facing the sector – labour, potential migration cuts and minimum wage increases.
The vast amount of capital required building the scale and infrastructure required supporting more production as well as access to land, water and resource consents – mean there is much to consider before cashing in on the SunGold rush.
Managing Director for Commercial & Agri Mark Hiddleston says despite this kiwifruit is a rapidly growing industry which has a strong governance structure and proven ability to innovate and respond to changing market dynamics.
“The trick for the kiwifruit industry will be sustainable growth over a number of years,” he says. “Making sure we can keep markets alive and deliver to consumers on a consistent basis while the whole sector steadily grows.”
That growth will create jobs and increase earnings which will flow through to regions and communities – the benefits of getting it right will make for a success story broader than the sector alone.
Briar McCormack is bluenotes NZ editor