Just as the fashion world has trends (acid wash jeans, anyone?) so too does the produce industry, and one of the biggest consumer trends to emerge from 2020 was the desire to understand where food comes from.
Montague has always been passionate about educating consumers about fresh produce – from seasonality to taste profiles – and now thanks to their new 53,000 square-metre state-of-the-art packing facility at their Narre Warren North orchard, consumers can take a behind-the-scenes look at where their fruit comes from.
From orchard to supermarket shelves and the process in between, here’s six things you’ll learn with a Facility Tour at The Orchard at Montague.
1. Learn about the history of fruit growing in Australia
Did you know some of Australia’s first fruit orchards were established by Mr Banks, a botanist who arrived on the First Fleet?
One of Australia’s most famous apple varieties – the Granny Smith Apple – originated from one of the seedlings first planted in the Parramatta region of New South Wales.
These days, Montague travel the world to find new types of apples to bring back to grow and test, delivering more variety to Australian apple and fruit lovers.
Make sure you spend time at Bill’s Orchard Gate before and after the tour to learn and taste about the different types of apples and stone fruit Montague grows.
2. See traditional equipment from the early 1950s
Step back in time and explore fruit packing equipment dating back to the 1950s.
As you tour the facility, you’ll see the contrast in equipment from wooden fruit graders and apple boxes used by Bill Montague when he first started in the industry, to the fully automated equipment used today.
3. Learn the importance of stickers on fruit
Have you ever wondered how fruit is identified when stored together on supermarket shelves?
The technology used these days can use these stickers to identify and trace where an apple is grown. From the grower who growed the apple, to the orchard, the block and the row and tree the apple is grown on.
So they don’t just help you pick out your favourite apple, from the blue JAZZ™ sticker to pink Smitten® or red envy™ and eve™, the stickers you find on apples and fruit helps retailers identify where the fruit has come from, the type of fruit and when it was packed.
4. Learn how apples are processed, packed and shipped
If we asked you what goes into packing and shipping fruit, you might have guessed boxes and transport trucks - but did you guess a high-powered camera?
To help ensure only the best fruit makes it into the boxes and bags for consumers, the packing process involves technology that can take 30 images of each piece of fruit to detect cuts, holes and colour changes in the flesh.
Fruit that doesn’t make it into boxes to be sent to consumers is separated into bins that can be used to make juice or cider.
5. Learn about apple storage
In Australia, as a deciduous tree, apples are picked between January to May.
In the Narre Warren North packing facility alone, Montague will process and back over 300 million apples, with most of those serving Australian consumers.
While some apple varieties are picked and delivered straight to the consumer, there’s also a need to ensure apples are available to consumers all year round.
On the tour you can learn about how we manage this process to ensure quality fruit is delivered to consumers throughout the year.
Stop by Bill’s Orchard Gate to learn about the seasonal varieties and when you’ll find them freshly picked each year.