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Home-Grown Machine Shells NZ Chestnuts

From the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology For immediate release

HOME-GROWN MACHINE SHELLS NZ CHESTNUTS

A machine built especially for shelling and peeling New Zealand-grown chestnuts is being used commercially for the first time this harvesting season. "This could make a huge difference to the New Zealand chestnut industry," says Roger Brown, chairperson of the New Zealand Chestnut Council, the national growers' association. New Zealand's growing chestnut industry has suffered because overseas-made shellers and peelers have not been entirely suitable for this country's crop. "Overseas machines are bigger, used to huge production runs, and don't process our chestnuts well because they steam and flame them - in other words, cook them," Mr Brown says. "Our chestnuts are a different variety. "The problem hasn't helped our present markets, nor the ones we're trying to develop. So our chestnuts have had to be canned, turned into paste or otherwise preserved." Chestnut Council executive director David Klinac, who is also a Hamilton HortResearch scientist, headed the team that devised, built and patented the new sheller. He says it will be the first such machine in New Zealand. "It's also the only machine in the world, as far as we know, that shells and peels fresh, whole chestnuts without flame, steam or similar." The sheller's development has been a joint effort primarily by the Chestnut Council, two chestnut processors and an Invercargill engineering firm. The project was part-funded by Technology New Zealand - part of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology - which invests in research into new products, processes or services. Technology New Zealand analyst Ian Gray says the machine's development is a dramatic step forward in the creation of a market for New Zealand chestnuts. "The technology will be of equal value to fresh nut exporters as well as those involved in downstream processing of innovative products." Trials over the past six months have concentrated on making the prototype commercially reliable, which Dr Klinac says has worked well. Chestnuts are like a vegetable in that they need to be stored cool until eaten. In many Asian countries they are eaten like rice as a main source of carbohydrates. Most New Zealand chestnuts are a cross between Japanese and European varieties, and New Zealand growers see the new machine as key to their effort to export more, and add value to their exports. Dr Klinac says there has also been overseas interest in the machine, which is small and easily portable. "The Australian chestnut industry has sent chestnuts to New Zealand for testing, and a delegation came and saw the results and discussed possible purchase and commercialisation." -ends-

Contact:

* Dr David Klinac, executive director, NZ Chestnut Council, c/- HortResearch, East St, Hamilton. Ph: (07) 858-4650. Email: dklinac@hort.cri.nz

* Ian Gray, Technology New Zealand (Auckland Office) at the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology. Ph: (09) 912-6730, or 021 660-409. Website: www.technz.co.nz

Prepared on behalf of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology by ID Communications. Contact: Ian Carson (04) 477-2525, ian@idcomm.co.nz


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