BOP lab and sampling service rises to the challenge | Hill Laboratories - NZ


BOP lab and sampling service rises to the challenge

Date: 18 May 2021
Author: Brad Stevens, Hill Labs BOP Site Manager

It’s amazing to think what has been achieved nearly eight months on from signing a contract with Zespri to provide sampling and maturity testing services to the kiwifruit industry. Less than four months in we began collecting residue samples and just over five months in we were processing the first maturity clearance samples. This is pretty impressive in isolation, but when you also consider that these services are being delivered from a team and facilities that didn’t exist at the point of signing a contract it demonstrates the can do attitude of both the Bay of Plenty team and the wider Hill Labs business that has supported us to achieve this.

Together our team have continued to overcome the challenges faced. These have ranged from the initial mammoth task of establishing a facility and a team in the BOP, managing delays in equipment due to Covid-19, building and implementing software to facilitate the collection and testing and even simple things like sourcing fruit to train staff ahead of commercial samples being received. 

Our team has proven to be responsive and scalable to industry demands. Every kiwifruit harvest season is different; despite best efforts to model and predict sample flows - weather, commercials, maturity, public holidays and other factors all lead to peaks and troughs that the team must navigate through. Following strong commercial signals from Zespri to growers, in mid-March we saw the day's sample numbers at more than double our previous largest day. Our team of ~150 staff rose to the challenge with 95% of samples collected by 2:30pm and the balance by 5pm, our lab team had the testing complete by 2am with the final results available the morning following collection. 

It’s been great to see both samplers and lab staff alike join the team and through training and experience improve their understanding and ability to perform their role as the season progresses. Similarly we have seen our in-house developed custom sampling and laboratory software continue to evolve with enhancements throughout the season; this provides improved quality, productivity and capacity to the services offered.

The industry is now approaching the completion of the Mainpack Gold harvest and will shortly be focused on the Mainpack Hayward harvest. For our BOP sampling and laboratory operations, this means that daily sample numbers will now start to reduce as we work through to the end of the season early to mid-June.

We are proud of the new BOP sampling and maturity testing services that we have established. We now have a solid foundation to build on continuing to improve these services for the kiwifruit industry and opportunities to extend Hill Labs sampling and testing services in the BOP and beyond. 

 - Brad Stevens, BOP Site Manager