Seeds to Young Plants
Flavorite produces all of its own seedlings. These are advanced seedlings to ensure optimum performance of the plants in the greenhouse. In modern tomato culture, the trend is towards generative or heavy fruit bearing varieties. To achieve the best result and to achieve crops that will last for a year, grafting of tomato plants is becoming the norm. Flavorite has made a significant investment in grafting chambers and uses the Japanese “top grafting” method for the best results. Once the plants have been through the grafting process, they spend 7 days in the grafting chambers (atmosphere controlled) before being moved into the nursery.
Timeframe from seed to young plant: 4 – 5 weeks
Nursery for Young Plants
Once in the nursery, plants are placed in larger cubes on rolling benches. As they grow, they spread out until their leaves touch. They continue to be spread out up to the 50th day when they are transported to the glasshouse, their production base for the next 12 months. During this time they are fed a specialised nutrient mixture by an ebb and flood system. Stakes and clips are applied to larger plants and they are closely monitored for pests and diseases. The plants themselves shrug off the grafting clips as their stems get thicker. Once in the glasshouse they are placed on rockwool slabs covered in plastic until the first flower comes out. Plants are tied with string on a hook, which is attached to a wire. They are cut into the rockwool slab when the first flower is fully out. The plant produces a set of flowers every week and grows approximately 30cms per week depending on the weather.
Timeframe from planting into greenhouse to first fruit production: 10 – 12 weeks
Dedicated crop workers attend to specialised tasks in specific areas each week. Professional crop workers can look after 10,000 plants (about half a hectare). Each week they wind the plants onto the string, prune the bunches of flowers to 5, take out the laterals (between the leaves), take off 3 or 4 leaves, manually pollinate, place supports on the bunches and monitor any pests to inform our Integrated Pest Management Department. Every week they lower the crop to allow it to grow back up to the wire. In this process they move the plants along the row to allow more space for growth.
The Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Department looks after all pest and disease issues in the greenhouse using predator bugs to control pests. Irrigation and environmental management of the greenhouse is carried out by the Growing Team. This Department oversees the watering of all crops and, guided by computer monitoring, oversees the precise environment in the greenhouse. They control the temperature and humidity and use heating, misting, screens and sprinklers on the roof to achieve the best result. They also feed CO2 extracted from the boiler flue into the greenhouse to enhance production.
Picking is carried out by specialist pickers four days per week during the summer months. The fruit is harvested in the cool of the morning and great care is taken to ensure all bunches are ripe before picking and are placed straight into trays for immediate dispatch to the temperature controlled packing facility to ensure freshness and prolong shelf life. Bunches are cut straight, flush from the vine with clippers; the pickers trolleys are hooked together and taken entrain to their destination. After 11 months the plants will be 13-15 metres long and will have produced around 35 bunches of tomatoes. A plant on average has a life of 12 months.
Once the tomatoes leave the glasshouse they enter the temperature controlled packing facility. This area is maintained at 13 degrees Celsius, the best temperature to maintain tomatoes in peak condition to extend shelf life. Quality assurance staff ensures fruit is clean and blemish free.
When the tomato train enters the packing facility it passes through the unloading dock where the trays are automatically placed onto a conveyor belt. Trays then move to the Christmas tree, where skilled packers ensure each tray only contains the best quality fruit. Finished trays proceed along the conveyor to the pallet stacker where they are automatically stacked on pallets ready for despatch.
Within this system, fruit is diverted for prepacking. The system can accommodate a wide range of pack sizes but is currently specialising in the 500g prepack tomatoes on the vine and 250g cherry tomatoes on the vine products. Once fruit has been packed onto trays and check weighed it is conveyed to the ULMA prepack unit. This unit automatically places a sealed plastic cover, complete with Flavorite sticker, over each 500g (or 250g) pack. The machine also has the capability to pack home brand labels and can handle varying pack sizes.
Flavorite sends all packed fruit to national distribution centres daily. The Flavorite B double travels 3 times a day in summer between the farm at Warragul and the Melbourne distribution centre. The truck is refrigerated and holds up to 68 pallets of tomatoes.
The Flavorite logistics system has developed over the last 20 years. The standard has been determined by the commitment to quality that Flavorite makes and is fully supported by the transport department. Each day fruit is delivered to the temperature controlled distribution centre, the ‘Red Centre’ in Sunshine, Victoria for both national and interstate distribution to our customers or to the state based wholesale markets in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland. Finally, delicious Flavorite tomatoes arrive on shelf in perfect condition ready to be added to your favourite recipes.