Aerial fertiliser spreading company Super Air has increased its spreading capacity by 20,000 tonnes a year, adding a further aircraft to its fleet, to meet a significant growth in demand from the sheep and beef sector.
Sheep and beef farmers are expecting the biggest returns in a decade with international prices up and excellent pasture growth throughout much of the country contributing to high seasonal weights.
This has led to increased fertiliser demand from hill country farmers.
Super Air Manager Graeme Martin said the boost in demand during spring and summer pushed Super Air resources to the limit.
"Continuing optimism in the sheep and beef sector means farmers are planning ahead and looking at their future farm nutrition requirements on top of maintenance fertiliser applications and this has increased our workload significantly.
"We've applied significantly more fertiliser compared with the same time last year and we're just getting into the busy autumn period," says Mr Martin.
Super Air operated with 15 aircraft, but the increased demand over the last six months meant the planes and support staff had to work harder than ever.
"We wanted to continue to be able to meet farmer expectations and demonstrate to our customers that we are confident about their future too."
Mr Martin says the additional aircraft, which will be based in Te Kuiti and moved around the North Island as required, is an investment to support growing farmer confidence.
The Cresco aircraft is similar to the familiar Fletcher aircraft synonymous with aerial topdressing in New Zealand. It was built by Pacific Aerospace in Hamilton and has a two-tonne payload.
"The Cresco has become the plane of choice for aerial topdressing. It was based on the Fletcher and is more powerful and more efficient, but it remains strong and safe to operate."
Pilot safety is the number one priority of Super Air, a fully-owned subsidiary of fertiliser co-operative Ballance Agri-Nutrients, which marked an industry milestone of 1500 days without a lost time injury in December last year.