A tale of Wire and Chocolate - 21 July 2014

Like most tropical plants grown for commercial harvest, cocoa trees are very much at the mercy of the cyclone gods.
 
For the co-owner of Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd, Chris Jahnke, it has meant that investing in quality trellising sits at the top of his list of must-haves in setting up the first stage of his Mission Beach cocoa plantation.
 
“For horticulturalists, the concept of trellising has gained significant popularity in coastal areas of north Queensland affected by cyclones,” Mr Jahnke said.
 
“This is not your everyday run of the mill project, we have investors in the company that expect ‘world’s best practise’ so I needed to do the research to find the most suitable products available.”
 
Mr Jahnke last year installed 12 kilometres of trellis wire on a one hectare trial plot to provide protection for the chocolate-producing trees, knowing high winds will be an issue at some stage.
 
He was first introduced to the idea of trellising by fellow horticulturalists in the region.
 
“Firstly, the trellising needs to be highly durable and able to withstand significant pressure from wind, but secondly it needs to lend itself to ease of management,” he said.
 
“The trellises not only protect the trees, but make them more productive, much easier to manage and (hopefully) harvest.
 
“In fact we are already seeing the trellised trees outperforming the freestanding ‘control’ trees by a significant margin.”
 
After making inquiries, Mr Jahnke discovered Waratah’s Longlife Blue Growire and Jumbo Gripples. 
 
“We need to adjust the tension of the strain on a regular basis, and the Gripples enable us to do that,” he said.
 
The use of barbed staples and some clever innovation on the part of Mr Jahnke has also enabled extra strength for the trellising.
 
“We’ve applied the staples in an inverted T, one horizontal and one vertical, which we’ve discovered provides extra strength to the Growire on the treated pine posts,” he said.
 
The next eighteen months will see a three million dollar investment which, according to Mr Jahnke, is a first of its kind for Australia.
 
“Our business plan is to develop the plantation, chocolate factory and visitor centre and so create a unique tourist attraction, The Australian Chocolate Centre,” he said.



“It’s a fully integrated business model – we’ll grow the cocoa trees, then harvest the product, turn it into chocolate and sell it on site and also online.”
 
Another 10 hectares of ground has been prepared for cocoa trees, with planting due to happen in the second half of this year.
 
Mr Jahnke also runs 150 Brahmans in a self-replacing herd on the 400 hectare property.
 
With 60 more hectares of country to be prepared for the cocoa plantation, Mr Jahnke is confident that he will be calling on the support of Waratah for more trellising.
 
“I need a versatile and durable product, and Waratah seems to have all the answers,” he said.