The greatest challenge to growing stonefruit, particularly cherries, is the weather! As beautiful as cherry blossoms are they are very susceptible to frost. Rain during the cherry harvest can also be very damaging to the fruit by causing it to swell and split and potentially wiping out a crop within an hour or two.
Another challenge with many of the varieties grown in New Zealand is that their natural crop is ready for picking very close to Christmas. If we have had a cool spring and start to summer the crop may miss the Christmas market. Cherries sold in the weeks prior to Christmas fetch a premium and post Christmas the prices usually drop dramatically. As cherries are a very labour intensive crop getting cherries to the markets prior to the holiday can have a huge impact on the profitability of the season.
For the past several years Clyde Orchards have been experimenting and researching methods to protect the crop and extend the harvest season. As a result, in 2018 they built the first Cravo Retractable Roof House in New Zealand. The first Cravo covers 3 hectares of land and houses 4,500 cherry trees. We have now added a second Cravo which is 3.5 hectares and holds 5,000 trees. The Cravo allows us to have more control over the environment the fruit is growing in. The roof can be closed to protect the fruit from rain and to trap warm air inside, accelerating the harvest. Cherries grown in the Cravo will be ready 2-3 weeks before those grown outside.