Project snapshot


Adelaide Hills

Project contact

Steve Shotton
Regional Development Manager

Alignment with RDA strategy

  • Economic development

Grant Recipient Case Study – 2021 Funding Round

Managing family orchards that have produced fruit since 1932, Damian McArdle is a 4th generation pear grower adopting new technology to sustain the family business into the future.

Changing market demands and practices have provided an opportunity for Chamberlain Orchards to not only provide fresh produce later into the year, but also transition to more environmentally-friendly practices to remain ahead of current industry best-practices in Australia.    

Growth opportunity for organic pears

Chamberlain Orchards grow 7 varieties of pear, with Packham Triumph pears making up around 80% of their orchards. However, the challenge for fruit-growers is keeping produce in premium condition for as long as possible.

While cold storage helps extend shelf-life, it can also cause superficial scald, a cosmetic injury that makes fruit turn black once it warms back up after extended time in cold storage. Packham pears are particularly susceptible to this damage.

This had meant pears could not typically be stored past June without risking significant losses unless they were chemically treated post-harvest with fungicides. With demand for produce year-round and demand for organic produce in commercial supermarkets increasing around 20% year on year, Chamberlain Orchards have been keen to increase their percentage of harvest from 30% organic, to 100%.

How the Hills and Coast Business Grant was used

In order to increase the storage and supply period of organic yields, while minimising scald and spoilage, Damian had been considering the purchase of an Isolcell Dynamic Controlled Atmosphere (DCA) machine from Italy. He had decided that if he was awarded the grant funding, it would provide enough of a financial contribution to make the purchase viable and he would order the equipment. If he did not get the funding, he would delay the purchase for another time. 

What happened after receiving the grant

The Isolcell DCA equipment arrived in Australia in December 2021, and was fully installed and ready for operation in March 2022, just in time for the 2022 harvest.

It works by monitoring the atmosphere behind the doors of the orchard’s coolrooms, using sophisticated sensors and digital data to provide real-time feedback about oxygen levels.

By using this real-time data, coolroom conditions can be adjusted as necessary, lowering oxygen levels to as low as 0.7% using nitrogen generators to reduce oxygen levels in the coolroom. This helps protect the fruit from scald which is caused by the interaction of oxygen and natural compounds in the surface of the fruit.

At the time of this case study, it was still a little too soon to determine the long-term effectiveness of the Isolcell DCA equipment over traditional storage methods for Chamberlain Orchard’s 2022 crop. However extensive research and use of this technology in Europe has shown storage times can be significantly extended.

Feedback on the Hills & Coast grant process

Damian spotted the Hills & Coast Business Grant in our RDA Business Weekly newsletter and decided to apply as a means to purchase the Isolcell DCA equipment.

Having already researched the costs to purchase, import and install the equipment, he found putting his grant application together very quick and straightforward. It was easy to access the RDA team with questions and, unlike some grants, there was no expensive application process to complete.

Damian McArdle, Chamberlain Orchards

“Always look out for grant opportunities. And if you’re unsure of the process, a 5-minute chat to get some advice can be invaluable.”