HARVESTING: Quality controller Clint Zemek on Amaryllys Farm in Gooburrum.
HARVESTING: Quality controller Clint Zemek on Amaryllys Farm in Gooburrum. Mike Knott BUN010218PINEAPPLES4

Sweet life after going from sugar to pines

IT'S the sweet life for Bundaberg's Amaryllys Farming after taking a chance and turning from sugar cane to pineapples.

With the perfect growing conditions in the region, it's no wonder the local farm is booming.

The farm has grown from one-and-a-half million pineapple plants to five-and-a-half-million in just six months, after it acquired more property.

Third-generation farmer Jay Hubert took on planting the tropical fruit three years ago, wanting to trial something other than sugar cane.

Mr Hubert said there was more profit in pines than cane, and it was perfect for the drier country as the fruit plants, part of the bromeliaceae family, needed no irrigation.

Farming the 6.5 million pines a year is tough work and it's not seasonal.

A percentage of Amaryllys pines goes to Coles supermarkets and with the rest going to the Golden Circle cannery.

One of the employees at the Gooburrum farm, Ashley Sonntag, showed the NewsMail the ins and outs of what it takes to get the perfect sweet golden piece of fruit.

Mr Sonntag said they had just started this year's pick and about 140 tonnes had already been sent to market.

Pineapple farm manager Clint Zemek said the harvest was a busy time that saw about 110 tonnes a hectare picked, which they were very happy with.

"Bundaberg has the best climate in the world to grow pineapples,” Mr Zemek said.

"We are better than the Mary Valley where they get frost, and better than Yeppon were the humidity gets in to them.”

It may look like the golden life but Mr Sonntag said the business was labour intensive and quantity and quality were both important.

"You need to pick the pineapples at the right time, when it's the right colour,” Mr Sonntag said.

"Leave them too long and they will get 'winey' inside.”

The window for picking the perfect pineapple is about three to four days - any longer and it's too late.

Amaryllys employees treat the fruit with kid gloves as a bump too hard could bruise the fruit's flesh.

The plants last two years before they are pulled up and replanted.

Mr Sonntag said most of the pineapple farms around now were once a cane farm.

So when you rip open a tin of sweet pineapple slices, you may be opening a can of pineapples from Bundaberg.

Although the process is a long one, the end result of delicious fresh, cooked, juiced, or preserved pineapple is well worth it, as any fan knows.

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