Blueberry Country, Blueberries

Meet Warrick – Blueberry Country

Warrick Macdonald is general manager of Blueberry Country, a family business based in Ohaupo set in the beautiful and fertile Waikato. They are New Zealand’s largest blueberry orchard with 400 acres in production over their three orchards.

Blueberry Country’s berries hero in Barker’s Squeezed Blackcurrants & Blueberries with Elderflower, forming part of Barker’s ‘fruit botanical’ range of fruit syrups.

Natural medicine has long held that these round purple berries give health benefits that far exceed their tiny size. Native to North America, blueberries are rich in anthocyanins. They are also rich in vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese and other antioxidants that provide numerous health benefits.

Blueberry Country grows around 30-40 blueberry varieties; all ripening at various times of the season. 

Blueberries are all grown, harvested and packed on site. The Blueberry Country crew propagates their own root stock and it’s quite a process. Starting with taking cuttings and ending with producing a crop – a bountiful harvest can be an impressive 3-4 years in the making.

Warrick Macdonald, Blueberry CountryRipe for the Picking

Fresh berries for the supermarket trade are all hand-picked. This is the longer season; from the end of November until around mid-April.  If you are passing through Ohaupo in the height of berry picking season you’ll be keen to know that PYO pickers get ‘first dibs’ of allocated rows teaming with ripe berries. Before that is, commercial pickers follow close behind.

Berries destined to be frozen are machine harvested. The berries are shaken from the bushes into catcher plates, collected in lugs and transported to the packing shed on conveyer belts.  Processing the berries is completed within 24 hours, so that they can be quickly frozen from fresh.

Machine harvesting stock ripens just after Christmas and by early February, it’s clean up time.

Perfect Peat

Greg and Alison Furness are the majority owners of Blueberry Country. Greg originally completed a degree in microbiology; specifically peat and what grows well in peat. The answer was blueberries! 

You can taste the difference. Blueberries grown in orchards on sandy loams can taste a little watered down, unlike the intense flavours grown on peat. The low pH peat soil of the Waipa District was perfect.

Small Berries, Big Innovation

When a machine harvester is used, green and red berries also drop off into catcher plates and need to be sorted from the ripe blueberries.  

To solve this time-consuming task, Blueberry Country’s innovative team created a state of the art colour sorter. The machine prototype was trialed and tested, and proclaimed a huge success on a global scale. Developed and manufactured by sister company and industry leader BBC Technologies, not only can it sort berries, it’s been used worldwide for small fruit growers of grapes, cherry tomatoes, cranberries, olives and the like.

Grower Tips

  • Be sure to get a variety of blueberry that suits your soil type. Warmer areas are suited to grow Rabbit Eye and Southern Highbush varieties best while Northern Highbush suits more southern areas.
  • Plants prefer a more sheltered environment and are prone to frost damage from the time the flowers come out.
  • Choose free draining soils but ensure the roots don’t dry out over the growing season – which may mean watering every few days if you don’t get rain.
  • Birds love blueberries and they’ll start their feast just as they start changing colour. Netting is essential.

Blueberry Country Ltd
Waipa, New Zealand