Easier pickings

Claire TyrrellCountryman

It would be fair to say the Vincentis' orchard is globally-inspired. The family has brought the best of what the world has to offer in fruit growing techniques and equipment to the Karragullen district.

Garrie Vincenti, his wife, Giuliana, son John and parents Tony and Anna run 12 hectares of stone fruit orchards at Carmel in the Kalamunda hills.

The family also runs machinery importing business A & A Holdings, which sells European horticultural equipment.

Sprayers, pickers and hedgers, sourced from Italy and used in the Vincentis' operation, will be on display at the Karragullen Expo.

Garrie said the business began in the 1980s, when his father, Tony, visited Italy.

"My dad went over there and brought some machinery back for us," he said. "People loved it and wanted some for themselves and that's how we started.

"Italy is the one of the highest horticultural producing countries in the world, which is why they've got the machinery to suit what we need.

"They are not the biggest but they are the most advanced in growing technologies, and because of land and labour costs Italy is very similar to how we are here."

Garrie said the business supplied machines to "every quarter of Australia" - from Carnarvon to Shepparton, Victoria.

The Vincentis boast a long history of fruit growing in the district since Garrie's grandfather came to the district in the 1920s. Garrie and his wife bought their Carmel property in 1980 where they grow peaches, plums and nectarines.

As climatic conditions changed and rainfall became less reliable, Garrie looked abroad to learn about ways to manage water.

"The dry spells over the past five years are something we have never seen," he said.

"We use deep water bores but they are low capacity and drop off fast if we have a dry season.

"We are using overseas techniques to try to cut our water use back."

Garrie has visited Israel several times to explore ways to minimise water use.

"I went first about 15 years ago and again last year," he said.

"We need to change the way we use our water, otherwise we won't be here for much longer."

Israel-inspired techniques employed by the Vincentis include deficit irrigation, which involves prolonging periods between watering, and fertigation, which involves mixing fertiliser with water.

Garrie said his season this year was shaping up to be average but it was now hard to tell because harvest would not start until later than usual.

He described the district as "one of the best areas in the world for growing fruit" but the business was not without its challenges.

"Urban impact is a worry, as is lack of government support," he said. "It is getting harder to run a business with high labour costs and Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority restrictions."

Each year the family replaces a portion of their orchard with new stone fruit varieties.

"Every year we replace 10 per cent of the orchard," Garrie said. "It is all a gamble because varieties that work on some properties don't work on others."

The family grows about 30 different varieties of stone fruit.

Garrie and Giuliana's son, John, manages the orchard and will help out at the expo. John was also part of a Hills Orchard Improvement Group tour to California earlier this year, where he learnt about new stone fruit varieties.

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