4 May 2018

High hopes for hops

From Country Life, 9:16 pm on 4 May 2018

With the global craft beer boom, there's increasing demand for top-quality hops.

Sheep farmer Noel Moleta is turning his hand to hops on a 122-hectare property near Nelson – the hop capital of New Zealand. 

Noel Moleta

Photo: RNZ Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Noel and son Aeron, who manages the Kotare Hops garden at Tapawera, have planted 14 hectares so far and another 15 are going in this year.

At last count, 2,500 poles have been erected, there are 44,000 plants put in the ground and an overhead irrigation system has been installed.

The hops are processed and dried on site in a custom-built plant with computer-controlled equipment.

Noel's first harvest of the fast-growing Taiheke variety produced a very welcome 2.9 tonnes to the hectare; he was expecting two tonnes.

He sent 700 lambs to the hop farm for the summer to graze under the five-metre high canopy.

Hop cones

Hop cones Photo: aaron007/123RF

Noel says sheep and hops go well together.

"We could have carried another 1,000 under here because you're irrigating and fertilising the soil well to grow the hops so even though we haven't sown down permanent pasture between the rows yet, the quality of feed is pretty good."

This year, 531 hectares of hops were harvested by 23 growers who supplied New Zealand Hops.

A total of just under 722,000 kgs of hops was sent into the co-operative.

with the increasing global interest in top quality hops for craft beers, the industry is growing.