This article originally appeared in Emmetts Field of Dreams magazine. Get your copy here.
Filsell’s Apples are one of the oldest family owned and operated orchards in the Adelaide Hills with over 115 years of experience. The orchard, located in the suburb of Forrest Range, was originally purchased in the late 1800s, with the first saleable crop of apples harvested in 1903.
The family business has been handed down through the generations, with the current custodians being brothers Bill, Mark and Ian Filsell. The newest generation of brothers James, Harry and Angus Filsell bring with them new ideas and confidence that the business will continue to innovate and lead apple production in the years to come. James commented ‘It doesn’t feel like work, I enjoy coming here every day and working towards the next goal, this feels like something I was born to do’.
James and Harry primarily work in the orchards managing seasonal fruit pickers and orchard development, while Angus manages the packing and storage of the produce. Today, the orchard still grows apples but also focuses on pears, cherries, quinces, and persimmons in seasonal periods. The property spans some 650 acres, which includes over 135 acres of fruit trees, an onsite packing shed, a cold storage facility and the original homestead.
The Filsells recently purchased a John Deere 5075E tractor from Emmetts Oakbank to add to their collection of green machines. James explained that they have always purchased John Deere, as ‘the John Deere products are reliable, tough and easy to use. They fit our needs perfectly and I cannot imagine using anything else’.
Last January, the Filsells also purchased a John Deere 5100GF. The low-profile tractor with extra wide cab is perfectly suited for spraying. The other John Deere tractors at the orchard include a 5510N narrow tractor and a 1982 John Deere 1040, which James says ‘acts more as a relic these days rather than a working tractor but I cannot imagine ever getting rid of it as it has been in the
family for almost 40 years.’
James and the Filsell family have purchased equipment from Emmetts Oakbank since well before Emmetts acquired Paech Motors in 2018. James said he appreciated the years of service that Paech Motors offered his family farm, but is finding that working with a large company like Emmetts provides many benefits. ‘If there is a part or a machine I need in a short time frame, Emmetts never have an issue in sourcing it because if the local branch doesn’t have it, one of the other ten branches will have it and get it sent to you really quickly.’ James also said that the skillset and knowledge base of the service and sales teams at Oakbank is what keeps Filsell’s Apples coming back.
When discussing the risks and challenges faced by the business, James commented that ‘the biggest risks that we face in the Adelaide Hills are bushfires and hail damage’. James and his team regularly clear fire breaks around the boundaries of the property to reduce the risk of catastrophic bushfire damage. James said, ‘clearing the scrub is part of our winter routine, it’s time consuming but necessary in case we have a bad bushfire season in the hills.’ Fortunately to this day, the property has not been affected by bushfires, however James knows other grows in the area who have been affected and the results are devastating. ‘We were very lucky to have not been effected by the 2019 bushfires that went through the Adelaide Hills,’ he said.
With each new generation comes new ideas and innovations. Recent orchard developments include the installation of netting over the trees. ‘It’s a huge investment to install netting over such a wide area of the orchid however we strongly believe it will pay off,’ James said. ‘Netting comes with benefits of protecting the trees from hail and birds, but also reduces the chances of sunburn on the fruit as it’s close to 10 degrees cooler under the nets. This reduced temperature under the nets also means that water doesn’t evaporate as quickly and provides the trees with greater opportunities for growth. All of these factors contribute to higher overall yield, which is what we are aiming for’.
James is excited about the prospects of precision agriculture and how it can be implemented in Filsell’s Apples day-today operations. ‘I understand that utilising Precision Ag technology is still a fair way off for us as it hasn’t been overly developed for the horticulture industry. I am excited however to learn more about variable rate fertiliser application and drone mapping technology to see the benefits that may provide the farm.’
The team at Emmetts would like to thank James and the Filsell family for their continued support and we look to seeing what the future brings for this dynamic family business.