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Amid the spectacular natural environment of Tasmania’s Huon Valley, a combination of cutting edge technology and organic farming methods are delivering the highest quality fresh fruit to Woolworths customers across Australia.

From his 60-hectare orchard near Grove, fourth generation farmer Andrew Smith, director of William Smith & Sons, has been supplying Woolworths’ stores at all points from South Australia and across the eastern seaboard to Queensland, for the past six years.

In that time Andrew has never seen or signed a contract, with business conducted according to verbal agreements and the shake of a hand.

“I wouldn’t have the business I have today without the support of Woolworths, Andrew said. “They have done everything they have said they would do in supporting us and the growth of the organics sector.
“And they have displayed a loyalty to their suppliers that other supermarkets haven’t.

“There’s always some argument about price, but Woolworths have an incredibly difficult balancing act in maintaining a fair price to their suppliers as well as remaining competitive at retail.

William Smith & Sons has a goal of bringing premium organic fruit within reach of all members of the community, so that more people can benefit from the nutrient content and flavour of organic fruit, while also being mindful of the pristine environment in which it is grown.

Their farm produces more than 2000 tonnes of apples a year and 50t of cherries, which are sold under the Woolworths’ Macro Wholefoods Market brand in all states except Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

“The market for organic food was very small when we made the shift in 1999 and we like to think that we have helped to grow the industry, he said. “Certainly, in taking on the Macro Wholefoods brand, Woolworths have helped to grow the organic industry even further and are now taking our fruit to mainstream consumers.

The orchard of mostly Gala, Fuji and Pink Lady apple trees is picked over two to three times between March and May, with the fruit most suited to storage picked first, while the ripest fruit is packed and delivered fresh to supermarkets across the eastern seaboard within three to five days of harvest.

During the packaging process, fruit is selected according to stringent quality control specifications set by Woolworths, covering size, colour and sugar content. Every pallet of fruit is thoroughly checked as part of Woolworths’ quality control systems, with feedback provided by Woolworths on all consignments.

“Woolworths need consistent supply and consistent quality in order to keep customers happy, and we’re using the best technology available to keep our fruit fresh so people can enjoy apples throughout the year, Andrew said.

In contrast, the cherry crop is picked, packed and supplied fresh on demand seven days a week throughout each January, with fruit on the shelves in Melbourne supermarkets within three days and in stores in Queensland within five days of picking.

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