Hops wired for expansion - 13 July 2015

An explosion in craft beer consumption is behind Hop Products Australia’s investment of $15 million over the next three years to increase production by 50 per cent.

A new processing plant will be established near Myrtleford in North Eastern Victoria and about 200 hectares of new hop gardens will be established there and in Tasmania.

Hops plants grow into thick vines, so growers need a strong and durable trellising system that can withstand the weight and won’t rust under constant irrigation.

Hops have been farmed in Australia for over 150 years, but it’s the burgeoning craft beer industries in Europe, America and to a smaller extent Australia which have caused the explosion of this intriguing crop’s production.

Driving through Myrtleford the heritage listed tobacco kilns from the region’s defunct tobacco industry are dwarfed by the scale of the hop production now dominant.

Allan Monshing is a Farm Manager for Hop Products Australia, part of the Barth-Haas Group of companies; the largest hop trader in the world.

Hops are in his blood, his family having been involved in hop production in the Ovens Valley for generations.

“We have been focusing on developing new hop varieties to complement that craft market, and there are some very exciting developments, and expansions in this region,” Mr Monshing said.

The trellising system will be built using Waratah’s Longlife® Growire®, as it is strong and doesn’t corrode easily.

“We build a trellis 5.5 metres high using treated timber posts, then we have wiring cable crossways, then a piece of biodegradable coconut fibre tied to the wire. The hops grow up string onto the wire,” Mr Monshing said.
 
“They can be quite heavy. For example one of our new varieties, Galaxy, produces 3000 kilos per hectare, so that does put some strain on the wire.

“We also use overhead irrigation in summer to keep the canopy nice and cool so that adds a lot of weight as well as pressure so far as rust goes, as it is constantly wet.”

Mr Monshing says the fact that the Waratah wire meets Australian standards and is all Australian made is important to the company.

“Using the timber posts, obviously the large cost of repairs is replacing those as they rot out or split, but the wire is very effective. I will normally re-tension it once a year in winter and that’s it," he said.

“The 3.15 Longlife Growire really does last the distance for us, improving our efficiencies when it comes to maintenance and repairs, and obviously in supporting the hops as they grow.”