A WILLINGNESS to give new methods and technology a go is helping to propel almond production along for South Australia's Century Orchards near Loxton.
The farm hosted on-farm demonstrations on the second day of the 4th Australian Almond Research and Development Forum and Field Day last month.
Century Orchards chief executive officer, Brendan Sidhu, gave an overview of the operation to start the day.
The private company which has about 45 investors, started in 1998 with 50 hectares of wine grapes, followed by its first planting of almonds in 1999 on 134ha.
Another 184ha of almonds were added in 2000, plus an additional 135ha in 2001.
Expansion continued and then in 2015, the board decided to get rid of the wine grapes, converting the vineyards into almond orchards in 2016 trying new Almond Board of Australia varieties.
Century Orchards now boasts 640ha of almonds.
While the company has five varieties of almonds in production (Nonpareil, Carmel, Price, Peerless and Monterey), the new plantings have included the Australian varieties Carina, Vela and Maxima.
Mr Sidhu said there were some key goals in mind when it came to establishing the current operation.
"When we did set up this orchard, my aim was to achieve 3.6t per hectare, really aiming for 4t," he said.
"The last five years we've averaged just over 5t/ha so we've done pretty well."
A particular break from tradition was tried in stage two and stage three plantings
"With some of our varieties, rather than plant Nonpareil, Carmel, Nonpareil, Monterey, every fourth row with the pollinators we interplanted and it could have been, down the row, Carmel, Price - one tree after the other," Mr Sidhu said.
"It's a bit of a headache to harvest as some of you growers would know.
"Whether that has given us an advantage with pollination, we're not sure, but I wouldn't do it again."
Specifically designed machines are used to both harvest and maintain a modern almond orchard.
One of the latest developments has been the adoption of the Concervis orchard management system.
The software has been in place since July 1 this year and Mr Sidhu said it was proving valuable.
"We think it's going to be a great system for us and it certainly seems to be working well for us so far," he said.
Concervis Corporation's Steve Chamberlain spoke at the field day, saying the mobility and ease-of-use of smartphones had created a powerful tool for growers to utilise.
"We're an orchard management system that takes advantage of this mobility that's happened out there," he said.
He said the system could provide labour savings, better communication and more visibility to a farm's operation through its ability to track on-farm operations such as pruning, harvesting and spraying.
Concervis was one of the major sponsors of the event.
The field day included machinery demonstrations across various sites plus new almond variety tours.