Jono Trolove: Fancy a Beer
The Nelson region has continued to cement its place as the home of hops in New Zealand, with hop gardens spanning from the hills of Golden Bay right through to the ranges at the southern end of the region towards the West Coast.
A seemingly insignificant flower to the average consumer, the hop in fact represents a global industry and one that has been written into New Zealand folklore - the Beer industry. Well known for the beer that it’s produced, Nelson is probably less known at a consumer level for its hops but the opportunity is one that spikes the interest of international buyers and local supplier, Hop Revolution.
Hop Revolution started approximately four years ago with Terry McCashin (of McCashins Breweries) and Dr Susan Wheeler - a plant scientist, who achieved the rights to grow hops before Jono Trolove came on board. Jono, who originally wanted to be a Hop Farmer himself, is now the Development Manager at Hop Revolution and seems to be a great fit for the industry considering the mindset he holds; “as soon as the humans come, so do the hops.” Jono has been with the company for over 3 years now and is driven to see the company succeed. Hop Revolution is setup to deliver hops all the way from the paddock to the brewer, an offering which ‘bucks the trend’ in the industry with regular use of brokers.
The hop garden is based in the southern end of the Nelson region, in Tapawera. Occupying 115 hectares, the crop whilst only in its first year, is destined for the American market but they have been fielding enquiry from around the globe, a good sign for the future and New Zealand grown hops. Hop Revolution have found that New Zealand has a great reputation for unique varieties of hops and the other markets have great interest in them, but the capital outlay requires investment.
MyFarm Investments is a capital investment group which have funded the developments for Hop Revolution. There is a significant barrier to entry in the hop industry and that is simply the cost of development. MyFarm Investments put together a syndicate with over 50 shareholders to purchase the land and develop the land for Hop Revolution to operate on. The process has been successful for both parties and has resulted in the plan to develop a second block bordering the existing property.
It should come as no surprise that the first step in any development, once underway, is finding the space for it and Nelson seemed to be that perfect spot. As Jono would say, “Nelson is the historical hop growing area for New Zealand” and that is largely driven by the climate. Nelson manages to achieve a well-balanced weather pattern with large sunshine hours and a good amount of rain. Despite having irrigation throughout their hop gardens, Jono said that hops would still grow well in the Nelson region.
His role as the Development Manager for Hop Revolution is to get the property from bare land, through to a fully operational hop garden. From the buildings, to the garden and machinery, it would then come as no surprise that relationships played a huge part in his day-to-day activity. One aspect Jono was very clear on was lead times, especially with suppliers of significant components. With a development of this magnitude, the suppliers must play their part and Jono needs to work alongside them and their lead times to ensure the development is working to the timeline. Due to some of the equipment needing to be order 12 months out, Jono stressed the importance of “getting ahead of the game.”
Through this process, Hop Revolution formed a strong relationship with Goldpine. Jono said, “it made sense, considering that Goldpine were just down the road” and the Goldpine product fit into their key requirements. Security is important in the hop industry but not in the typical meaning. The cost works out at approximately $50,000-60,000 per hectare, so for Jono and the team, the reassurance to know that the hop garden is secure is important. This is why they use good products, and the strength of the poles is a part of this.
Hop Revolution have intensive expansion plans as they look to make the most of New Zealand’s climate. They have testing gardens throughout the country which help them best assess the potential in the region and financial viability. The product is most important, much like any industry, so Jono and his team want to be sure the hops coming out of the region are of the best quality before a decision to develop would be made.
Hop Revolution have a good understand of legislation surrounding the environment and it’s something they look to stay ahead of the curve on. Jono enforces that water will always be the main issue but there are more on the horizon. Steel poles are an option in hop gardens but “if you look around, the wooden poles are coming off the hills beside us, a couple kilometers up the road to be processed and then back here where we put them in the ground. So the environmental footprint would be way smaller and is something we’d continue to use.”
Hop Revolution have found that a natural, New Zealand-grown product has created real demand overseas, through utilising the unique variety of hops nurtured in the Nelson region. Though not without its challenges, Hop Revolution have found through investment partnerships, key relationships and reliable supplier products, they can deliver a quality product to the world.