Nutrano Produce Group, which acquired the premium blueberry farm Abbotsleigh last year, says its volumes have been more than double last season’s crop.
The company grows the fruit at the Southern Queensland farm, with the season running from June to January and a seasonal peak in September and October.
"We have been very happy with the fruit size, flavour and quality this season," Steven Chaur, Managing Director of Nutrano said. "We have been trialing new initiatives with fertiliser and water programs, as well as some alternative plant growing methods which have delivered improved yield results year on year. We do anticipate that our harvest volume will continue to increase incrementally over the next two years based on existing plantings."
Nutrano has approximately 20 hectares of protected cropping blueberries in both tunnels and netting. Mr Chaur says the 2017 season has been mostly predictable with drier weather in the growing region.
"Although a few unseasonal bursts of early hot weather in Spring followed by heavy rain did promote additional fruit growth," he said. "Whilst it did present some challenges to pick the fruit faster to ensure size, quality and flavour was maintained, the company was able to harvest the fruit with minimal disruption. The fruit quality and yield per hectare has been improving strongly as expected over the past year and we are on target to meet our 2017 volume expectations. As our young plantation matures, fruit yield and volumes are expected to continue to rise."
Over the coming years, Nutrano says it aspires to expand its production in Abbotsleigh as a premium Australian grower, with consumer demand for Australian blueberries increasing strongly due to increased quality, flavour and availability.
"Health trends are also helping to promote the fruit due it its positive antioxidant qualities and versatility with smoothies, meal and recipe uses and snacking convenience," Mr Chaur said. "Price has also been a factor as blueberries become more affordable as supply volumes domestically increase. Whilst Australia does import quite a volume of frozen blueberries from overseas markets, mainly South America, Canada and the USA, improved growing techniques, supermarket merchandising and strict on farm quality systems have made Australian blueberries more accessible to consumers at an affordable price."
Currently, Nutrano supplies all its quality blueberries exclusively under licence into the SmartBerries marketing and packing program, which sells the product nationally and to export markets.
"As a growing company that exports internationally, Nutrano is gaining increased demand from export customers in Asia for our Abbotsleigh farm grown citrus and we are confident that our berries will, in time, be included in export programs," Mr Chaur said.
OzBlu is an Australian based breeding program for blueberries and Nutrano's Managing Director says the company provides several different varieties under that partnership.
"These varieties provide different characteristics in fruit size, firmness, sweetness and juiciness," he said. "New varieties are always being trialled across the world to improve flavour, berry size, crop yield and taste. A major future industry opportunity is to develop mechanically harvestable varieties to reduce on farm labour costs, as well as new varietals that provide unique characteristics around flavour, juiciness and texture. The UK market has started to market Blueberry varieties on this basis."
For more information
Nutrano Produce Group
Phone: +61 3 9428 1748
Publication date: 11/13/2017
Author: Matthew Russell