After years of intensive agriculture in the valley, Wong is equally passionate about making the company’s operations as environmentally sustainable as possible.
Most of the power needed for the hops processing plant can be taken from a neighbour’s hydro-electric scheme.
Combined with the short growing season, from October until March, and the use of drip irrigation, Wong said the farm will have a significantly reduced carbon footprint and impact on the environment, from the previous dairy operation.
“We’re looking at planting more trees around the garden, especially in the unproductive areas, as that will further enhance the environment and can help us offset any carbon we use – it’s certainly something we want to explore more,” Wong said.
While teams have been working to plant the farm in hops and install the extensive trellises needed to support the vines, Nelson Lakes Hops’ largest capital investment has been importing and installing the processing plant.
“It's been a pretty challenging time, given the inflationary period that we've had, rising construction costs and supply chain issues,” Wong said.
“Thankfully we've been able to manage the budget very successfully with the help of our shareholders and ANZ, who have been really supportive throughout.”
ANZ Business General Manager John Bennett said the venture is a great example of what is possible when industry leaders come together and combine their strengths.
“Changing Mount Ella Station from dairy to horticulture, Nelson Lakes Hops and its partners have discovered an opportunity, adding value at every step,” Bennett said.
“They’ve attracted capital to the industry and are now well on their way to proving that a scalable, high-value crop like hops is a great option for all involved.”
Wong is keen for the garden to become a strong contributor to the local economy, offering jobs and training to those interested in working in the industry.
“We aim to be the largest contiguous hop farm in New Zealand,” Wong said.
“We want to help push the New Zealand hop industry to a new phase of growth and for it to become a leader in quality.
“If we can do that, I think that will result in long term value for our shareholders, the local community, and the country.”