By Rose Mannering in The Orchardist

Grochem celebrated its 25th year anniversary in Havelock North on June 27, the sole remaining New Zealand-owned chemical company.

From humble beginnings supplying nutritional products for flower production, to a world renowned chemical supplier, managing director George McHardy says the company has plenty to celebrate.

Research and development of new sustainable products is the cornerstone of what Grochem does, he says. With 48 registered agrichemicals and many nutrition formulations here, 23 Australian registrations, four in South Africa and two under development in Chile, Grochem is totally committed to its product stewardship. Memorable firsts in that time included a world first registration for:

  • Ammonium Thiosulphate or Thin-it for primary thinning of apples in 2003;
  • Blossom Bless, for fire blight control, was the first biological agent to be registered in 2006 under the new HSNO Act;
  • Ambitious gained a world first label claim for fruit sizing of apples in 2010, followed by registration registration for Psa suppression in kiwifruit;
  • Nordox gained registration for Psa control in 2013;
  • Bapsol 100 thinning product was introduced in 2011;
  • Meteor was registered in 2015, the “revolutionary secondary thinning chemistry for apples”.

Since a local buy-out of Grochem 12 years ago, the company has experienced rapid growth. “We are now the only independently owned and operated company that still manufacturers, imports and develops a range of nutrition and crop protection products specific to our environment,” he says.

Relationships with multinational partners have been key, as some do not see New Zealand or Australia as being big enough in their own right for them to be based here. They generally develop products for the big markets (cotton, soybeans or corn), and smaller horticulture based markets are not recognised by them. “However, some of the molecules may have a unique fit in parts of our growing systems which we set out to identify.”

George says the supply environment is changing, with considerable rationalisation. The main country of manufacture, China, has been shutting down polluting factories, placing pressure on supply and consequently price.

“Being an export dependant nation, we must make sure that input products used by our growers are fit for the international stage. After a serious industry wakeup call last year in pipfruit (not by our company I might add), we need to be wary of unfamiliar suppliers and their offering!”

Thorough testing under local conditions is needed to ensure there are no surprises in the field.

Grochem has participated in the massive growth that horticulture has been, from the early 1990s of $700-million exports to today’s figure approaching $3.6-billion. George warned the industry needed to remain agile and adapt with haste if need be.

Giving back

Two years ago, Grochem launched a Nordox campaign to support RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employers) from Vanuatu. For every box of Nordox sold during May and June, $10 was donated toward a UNICEF project to supply fresh water and sanitation to 150 schools in the Penama region. General Manager Grant Morrish says Grochem donated over $20,000 to UNICEF last year. The New Zealand government also got in behind the UNICEF WASH project and for every dollar raised by Grochem, contributed a further $4.

Based on last year’s success, the project is being re-run this year, and Grant is hopeful similar levels will be reached.

A second programme this year will raise funds for hospices in Nelson and Hawke’s Bay, with $35 per kilogram from the sale of Meteor during October and November donated to the hospice cause.