Limpopo will soon be home to one of the world’s largest avocado handling facilities. The world-class packhouse, set to benefit all avocado growers, will also address major challenges in one of Mzansi’s poorest provinces.
The 11 200 square meter Mooketsi Pack House will be used to pack avocados and tomatoes for ZZ2, one of the largest farming businesses in South Africa. The first batch of avocados are expected to be packed and shipped in February 2022.
According to Ian van Brouwershaven, ZZ2 engineer and project manager, the Mooketsi Pack House in Tzaneen will not only create employment opportunities and benefit growers, but also address key industry challenges.
The facility, he says, will furthermore help to unlock the potential of avocado growers in the province to expand plantings to 3 500 hectares which, in turn, will create thousands of jobs.
“We estimate the new packhouse will create in the region of 5 000 jobs primarily as the result of increased plantings in the Tzaneen area and surrounds,” Van Brouwershaven tells Food For Mzansi.
All growers to benefit
Operation of the facility is expected to be phased in as production in Limpopo expands. The packhouse hopes to eventually handle 70 000 tonnes per year.
Van Brouwershaven states that the facility will benefit all avocado growers, regardless of their scale.
“They will have access to a state-of-the-art facility that employs the best cooling and packing techniques for avocados. The packhouse has been designed to minimise the handling of the avocados so that they arrive at their destination in the best possible quality,” he explains.
According to Van Brouwershaven, what sets the Limpopo packing facility apart from others, both locally and internationally, is that it has been designed to follow ZZ2’s philosophy of nature-friendly farming.
Water will be recycled, where possible, and waste water will go through a filtration process so that it can be used for irrigation.
“[Also,] the design allows for the use of natural light and the roof is built to accommodate solar panels to assist with the generation of electricity.
“The packing equipment features scanning technology that automatically sorts produce according to class, size and colour,” Van Brouwershaven reveals.
Meanwhile, the packhouse’s ability to get through huge volumes of avocados in the shortest possible time, is projected to be a huge benefit to the industry.
“With the capacity to pack at 60 tonnes an hour means that there will be no build-up of stock or stock waiting before it can go into the cold rooms,” Van Brouwershaven says.
Apart from packing for ZZ2, the facility will also service the strategic partnership between ZZ2, Mission Produce and Core, to provide access to world-class packing facilities and new markets for other avocado producers in Limpopo.
Since ZZ2 is also the biggest tomato producer in the country, it is reported that the pack line has been designed to accommodate tomatoes during the off season. The pack house’s advanced cooling systems promises to contribute to improved tomato quality and shelf-life.