About Hidden Valley Plantations
Hidden Valley Plantations is a small macadamia business in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia. We are a family partnership established in 1956. Initially we grew pineapples, then citrus, avocados, custard apples and finally started in macadamias in 1963, over 50 years ago. Since we started in Macadamias, Hidden Valley Plantations has managed to get involved in most aspects of the industry.
Our business can be roughly separated into the following areas
- Growing & Orchards
- Processing (Cracking) & Packaging
- Breeding & Research
- Robotics & Automation (external link)
- Wholesale Nursery
- Sorry we do not do farm tours
Hidden Valley Plantations started growing Macadamias in 1965. We have about 25 ha of orchards. During the years that have followed, we have seen the Australian Macadamia industry grow from a small niche market to a global industry worth in excess of $500 million per annum.
Macadamias require a sub-tropical environment with a good rainfall to do well. In order to produce crop, night temperatures during winter need to fall below 15C, but at the same time they are not frost tolerant. During summer the trees will be stressed if temperatures go above 35C. Rainfalls of 1500 - 2000mm are desirable with the bulk of it in summer, or supplemental irrigation will be required. High altitudes can detrimentally affect quality.
The flowers appear in Spring and nuts form up over Summer. When mature in Autumn (Fall), they fall from the tree and are harvested from the ground - either by hand or machines - at regular intervals until the end of the crop in early Spring.
Macadamias can take up to eight years to bear commercially, and this waiting period is is one of the major costs associated with growing them. There can also be a large labour component, as well as other inputs. Hidden Valley Plantations continues to investigate many areas of cultural practices with the aim of reducing these costs and increasing yields per hectare.
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Hidden Valley Plantations started processing Macadamias in 1978 and started chocolate coating products in 1981. These days we just do plain Raw and Dry Roasted Kernels which are available in retail packs from selected outlets. We also do a small amount of bulk kernel for wholesalers.
Before cracking, Macadamias must be dried in a controlled way to a very low moisture content (1.5%). If they are dried too fast, or with too high temperatures, their roasting quality can be detrimentally affected. If they are not dried to a low enough moisture content they will have a poor shelf life.
Macadamias have a delicate kernel inside a very hard shell. This makes them difficult to crack without damaging the kernel. The cracker must break the shell, without going too far. To do this, some processors size the nuts first and then crack each size separately, while others use crackers that do not require sizing. There are advantages in both methods.
After cracking the shells must be separated from the kernels. This is also a little difficult because the shells and kernels have very similar specific gravities, so many common separation methods are not effective. The separation is usually achieved by a combination of vibrating screens, air floatation and colour sorters. Finally all kernel is inspected for defects such as insect stings etc. Post processing, Macadamias are stored in vacuumised foil pouches with good oxygen and moisture barrier properties, and can remain fresh for 18 months.
Macadamia processing requires specialised equipment, and most of ours was designed and built at Hidden Valley Plantations. We have an on-going program that is always investigating new processing technologies, to reduce costs and improve product quality.
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Hidden Valley Plantations started a Macadamia Breeding Program in 1975 - not long after we started growing them. This was because Henry Bell was disappointed with the varieties available in Australia at the time. Many were from the more established Hawaiian industry and bred to suit Hawaiian conditions. Ironically this meant that they did not suit the Australian conditions where macadamias originated from.
Breeding Macadamias is a very long term proposition, as each generation takes at least 5 years. After which is a prolonged assessment period for promising selections that can take up to 15 years. However, very little breeding work has been done in the crop in the past, so any methodical breeding program has a high likelihood of producing improved varieties.
The main criteria for new varieties are early bearing, high yield of kernel per hectare (acre), and good quality kernel. High kernel recovery (KR = wt kernel/wt nut) is also very desirable, because a high KR variety producing the same quantity of nuts as a low KR variety will at the end of the day produce more kernel. Insect and disease resistance are also desirable, as are many other agronomic factors. In our breeding program, we assess a total of 28 characters.
We have now assessed about 8000 seedlings, which have yielded about 675 promising selections. From these we have released three varieties, and two on limited release
Hidden Valley A4, PBR 1987 - A very precocious tree that can produce commercial yields in three years, has a large kernel (3.0-3.5gr), and a high kernel recovery (44%-48%).
Hidden Valley A16, PBR 1987 - A small precocious upright tree that produces a high yield per hectare, has a medium-large kernel (2.5-3.0gr), and a high kernel recovery (38%-42%)
Hidden Valley A38, PBR 1992 - A vigorous and precocious upright tree that produces a high yield per hectare, has a medium-large kernel (2.5-3.0gr) and a medium-high kernel recovery (36%-40%)
A203 (limited release) - A new variety that has a low kernel recovery by our standards, but yields well and is partially resistant to huskspot
A268 (limited release) - This vigourous variety has produced heavy crops in a broad range of climates.
In the pipeline - We are now up to A475 in our breeding program. Many will never be released, while require more testing before they are ready. Currently A104, A199, and A376 are under review.
These have been well accepted by the Australian industry, and a large proportion of new orchards have been planted with them. We have three more that we hope will be ready for release in the next few years. More information on these varieties and their availability can be found on our About HVP Varieties page.
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We have our own nursery that was set up for producing breeding stock and farm expansion/replanting. Stictly speaking we are not a commercial nursery, however at different times we also sell our varieties to growers in a limited way. So if you have trouble aquiring our trees from the List of Nurseries, contact us and we may be able to assist.
The stock are grown as cuttings. While it has been general industry to grow budded or grafted trees, we believe there is no good reason to do this. We have found no difficulties growing cuttings and eliminating the graft union means there is no chance of incompatability between the rootstock and the scion. We have found the cuttings bear as heavily as grafted trees and in the same time frame.
We can provide cutting grown stock in two sizes.
Cuttings in 50mm native pots. These are in the pots that the cutting were struck in and have been hardened off ready to pot up into planter bags. Planter bags then need to be maintained in a nursery situation with between one and four short waterings a day, depending on the sprinkler set up (we use automatic clocks). They should be ready to plant in the field after about twelve months in planter bags.
Fully grown cuttings in 7lt planter bags. These are ready for immediate planting in the field. They are approx 1.5m tall with fully developed roots.
We maintain varying levels of stock of all of our varieties.
Our nursery facilities include a state-of-the-art propagation house that allows us to grow a number of difficult to propagate species. We can provide propagation services where many nurseries would be unable to produce plants. Contact us for further information.
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