In 2001 Fiona and Bernard Hall commenced a small cherry picking businessin Central NSW, which initially focused on contract packaging. Along with Bernard’s brother, Timothy Hall, they also own and operate Bonny Glen Fruits. Bernard and Tim’s parents moved to Orange in 1974 and purchased the orchard “Bonny Glen”, making the brothers 2nd generation orchardists. Bonny Glen Fruits has since expanded and today operate a total of four orchards which includes Caernarvon in Canobolas.Caernarvon Cherry Co was founded in 2010 and just four years ago the brand BiteRiot! was created as a decision to align all the growers together and market their products under the same brand. We speak to Fiona Hall, Founder and Managing Director, to find out what makes BiteRiot! different.
“Since then,Caernarvon Cherry Co has grown each year with our BiteRiot! brand growing in recognition.” Says Fiona. In addition to cherries, the brand is also used to market their cherry juice and several varieties of apples such as Kanzi, Red Delicious, Pink Lady & Royal Gala. “We grow, package and ship fresh cherries and apples. Our cherry varieties are Lapins, Sweetheart, Kordia, Regina, Simone, Black Star, Sylvia, Samba & Chelan. Our apples are grown over four different orchards and includevarieties such as fuji, pink ladies, red delicious and royal galas amongst others. Our third product is our 100% cherry juice.” Explains Fiona. With 60% of their cherry crop being exported and 40% sold domestically, BiteRiot! has become a well-established brand gaining a large following on both the domestic and export front. They also use their BiteMe! brand which is well suited for domestic markets.
Located in the slopes of Mount Canobolas near Orange in Central NSW, growers under the brand are perfectly situated to produce premium apples and cherries. The location provides a combination of high altitude, rich volcanic soil nourished by fresh and clean mountain water. Warm sunny days and cool nights provide the ideal growing conditions for crisp crunchy apples and firm fresh cherries.
The brand’s third product, 100% BiteRiot! Cherry Juiceis a healthy product which has also gained a following. Published research on the benefits of cherries have found that the fruit reduces the risk of not only arthritis and rheumatism, but is also beneficial for those suffering from gout. In addition to these health benefits, an article in the Huffington Post states that cherries combat post-workout soreness. “Not to mention that cherries also taste great, our juice is available all year round in supermarkets such as Harris Farms and IGA.” Says Fiona.
The brand’s pack-house has recently been renovated and extended to house 7 cool-rooms, a smart fresh room and an apple and a cherry pack-house. With stringent quality control methods, only the superior fruit is packaged with their signature red and white logo. The cherry pack-house has all cherries hydro-cooled straight from the paddock, then water flued in hydrated water at a controlled temperature. The apple pack-house which is operated by Bonny Glen Fruits 10 months of the year, has recently been re-vamped and upgraded to incorporate the latest technology including software for camera colour sorting.
“It is all about having a consistent product that our customers can rely on. We have a team of orchard managers, growers and work closely with agronomists to ensure our growers are consistent quality fruit by HACCP and using the correct orchard practices. We have a lot of QA accreditations such as Fresh Care as well as a full time staff member.” Advises Fiona. Staff at BiteRiot! are also involved with and participate within the industry, with governing bodies and associations such as NSW Farmers and the NSW DPI (Department of Primary Industries), NSW Cherry Growers & APAL future orchard program. Fiona states they are always looking to collaborate with likeminded members of the industry to look at things like market access and expansion, or to discuss different methods or technology that can implemented. “With suppliers, we look to keep everyone together as a team and share a goal of taking advantage of our great fruit to not only benefit ourselves but also our customers.” States Fiona.
In addition to being Farmer of the Year finalists by the NSWFA (New South Wales Farmers Association), Fiona has received the 2015 Nuffield Scholarship. The scholarship is presented by Nuffield Australia, an organization which provides Australian farmers the opportunity to travel overseas on an agricultural research scholarship. The scholarship will allow Fiona to travel to the UK, USA, France, Netherlands, Italy and New Zealand to learn andviewprocedures and modelsused to further strengthen the Australian market. “We are always looking to continueour training and self-education and to look at what other companies are doing in the industry to better ourselves.” Says Fiona.
As with any export industry, Fiona hopes to see an increase in market access. Over the last four years, markets such as Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Russia have closed.“This is our biggest threat, we need to have more access,asdomestically we are already over supplied. We need to get it offshore and if that happens the whole industry can expand and we can grow regionally in NSW. This will mean more jobs and more advantages in Australia.” Explains Fiona. Currently BiteRiot! is successfully supplying the South East Asia & Middle East markets.
“Going forward, we are going to focus on our commercial operation. We would like to create more provenance and through that do some brand building.We will also focus on having on-farm experience, as it creates more brand recognition. We would like people to really see who we are, not just as a brand but as a farm. We hope to continue to grow and expand our operation and we know we need to move ahead with the industry and adopt new technology to do that. I think we have some exciting times in front of us.” States Fiona.
She adds, “We are lucky to be farmers of fresh and healthy fruit in this era.Farming is becoming scarce, with people retiring and not many young people coming back into it. We have to appreciate the farmers know how and experience, as it will be a rare resource right up there with water.We are also lucky because compared to other industries, at the end of the day, everyone still has to eat.”