Leads to new career in agriculture
It was a life-long passion to be part of the agriculture industry which led Daniel and Angela Jackson to purchase their 40-hectare custard apple and macadamia business on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
The couple said they considered several agricultural industries before finally settling on horticulture.
“Daniel had wanted to get into farming for a long time,” Angela said. “We looked at a range of farms from piggeries to cane farms, but it was the horticulture industry we seemed most attracted to.”
Despite not having a background in farming, the Jacksons have taken to their new career with great enthusiasm. As well as managing the family business, Daniel is also currently the president of Custard Apples Australia.
In the short time the Jacksons have operated Jacksons Agricultural Company they’ve come to learn how devastating mother nature can be.
In 2017 during their first harvest, they lost 2,000 – 3,000 trays of custard apples to Tropical Cyclone Debbie. The Jacksons were again decimated in November 2020 when a hailstorm destroyed 60 per cent of their crop.
Despite these setbacks Daniel said their 2021 season was shaping up to be a good one.
Over the past two years, the Jacksons have been busy converting their farm to drip irrigation as part of a longer-term strategy to help their trees cope with increasingly dry seasons.
“Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a regular wet season anymore,” Daniel said. “Last year, this system set us up really well and while others were struggling with the dry, we ended up with a great crop. The irrigation system certainly paid for itself.”
Like most growers the Jacksons have concerns when it comes to sourcing adequate labour for their harvest season in April.
“Labour this year is looking like it might be a bit of a challenge for us,” Angela said. “I thought we’d be ok given our proximity to Brisbane we normally have a lot more interest when we advertise.”
Angela said she’d been in contact with her local Harvest Trail Service Provider for help with recruiting workers for the upcoming harvest season and despite the grim outlook believes they will be ok.
The other concern for the Jacksons is the never-ending changes to food safety compliance.
The Jacksons currently have Freshcare accreditation and are looking to become HARPS accredited this year but said Freshcare had changed so much in the past three years it was ridiculous.
“Every year there seems to be another level of unrealistic expectation placed on us.”
“The problem is the onus is always back on us. Every shred of work and every cost goes back to the grower. So that’s the frustrating part.”
Recently the Jacksons have been working with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (QDAF) to conduct a trial site as part of a Hort Innovation levy-funded project, to develop and evaluate new high yielding green and red skin custard apple varieties.
Despite having some success with both varieties Daniel said they had found each variety had its own preferred climate for optimal fruit growth and flavour.
“We’ve learnt the green-skin variety doesn’t like the cold. As soon as we get a cold snap in mid-April to May, they all split,” Daniel said. “If you go north to Bundaberg and above, they’re fantastic.”
“The red-skinned variety on the other hand loves the climate from Brisbane up to Bundaberg. It doesn’t do as good in northern New South Wales. Growers down there really struggled to get the trees to fruit and when fruit did form there was no flavour.”
Another exciting prospect discovered with the red-skinned variety was its potential to fruit outside of the traditional custard apple season.
“We noticed last year when we came through in August to prune that the trees had set a heap of new flowers,” Daniel said.
“We’re keeping an eye on the trees with the guys at QDAF, but this has huge potential for an out of traditional season harvest.”
The as-yet unnamed, red-skinned variety is expected to be commercialised later this year before moving to full scale production.
Daniel said that despite the fantastic consumer feedback, the industry was unsure how the red-skinned fruit would fit into the segment long-term.
“Will it be sold as a niche, high-end product like a finger lime or will it have a 50/50 market share of production? We’ll just have to wait and see,” Daniel said.
“Consumer feedback has been fantastic – both for its visual appeal and taste.
“There is still a bit of work to be done but all signs are pointing to a successful product. Hort Innovation is very excited about this new variety.”
Written by Natalie Brady
Photography by Lachlan Mitcherson
Jackson Agricultural Company is featured in the March/April 2021 edition of Fruit and Vegetable News.