Sunraysia’s Agromillora has just finished the mechanical harvesting of its second crop of Super High Density (SHD) almonds at its trial site located at SuniTAFE’s SMART Farm in Irymple.

The SHD trees are basically a dwarf plant that is densely planted and reaches no more than three metres in height, allowing a conventional grape harvester with no modification to travel over the top of the trees in the same way that it straddles grapevines.

Agromillora’s Mildura sales representative, Alessio Toccaceli said that growing SHD crops has many advantages, including requiring less water per hectare.

“The trees were planted in January 2017 and we have just harvested the second crop from these trees which are maturing well,” he said.

“As expected, we got high yields this year on both varieties that we harvested, including the premium quality Nonpareil, which is the highest value almond and we doubled the volume over last year.”

There are dozens of varieties of Almonds available throughout the World.

California grown Nonpareil almonds are most highly traded variety across the Globe.

Nonpareil almonds have a much higher yield percentage, which amounts to the average weight of kernels when extracted from shells.

The variety is soft shelled, readily blanchable and suitable for nearly any final application.

Nonpareil almonds are usually consumed as table nuts and are also suitable for use as an ingredient in manufactured food products.

The other varieties grown at the SMART Farm include Carmel and Price. They act as pollinators and are grown in between the Nonpareil rows.

Australian Carmel almonds are known for their intense almond flavour and Price almonds have a sweet and buttery taste and make a great snack or ingredient in cooking.

Mr Toccaceli said that the higher yields being achieved at the SMART Farm come about because there are more trees per hectare compared to traditional almond orchard plantings.

“The productive world that is created by planting these trees, which in many ways mirror rows of grape vines, allows for more nuts to be produced because more fruiting buds are present than the traditional tree,” he said.

“The average of the yield per hectare is between three to four tonnes and equates to the yields achieved with traditional plantings.

However, one of the advantages of growing SHD trees capable of being mechanically harvested, is the reduction in input and labour costs.

“The inputs are lower in terms of water use, which sees only about nine megalitres per hectare used, versus 14 to 15 megalitres on a traditional orchard.
“In addition to this the pruning system only takes about an hour per hectare with one operator. Spraying of the trees is also simplified and importantly the number of nuts that you collect while harvesting is increased.
“Harvesting mechanically means the nuts don’t drop onto the ground. The fish blade of the harvester collects 99 per cent of the almonds.
“Avoiding contact with the ground, means that there is no risk of contamination from pesticides or insects, and unlike traditional harvesting which is very dusty and usually means the almonds need to be pasteurised after harvesting.”

The almonds being grown at the Irymple farm have a commercial value which Mr Toccaceli said this year saw two tonnes per hectare harvested on the three and a half hectare orchard.

“Once the almonds are dry, they are shipped to South Australia to one of the three processing plants, where they will be shelled and they are then sold into the marketplace,” he said.

Agromillora aims to increase the awareness of the SHD system in this region (something that isn’t limited to almonds and is also being introduced into the citrus and olive industry) and to demonstrate the benefits of changing to this method of growing fruit trees.