BerryWorld Australia appoints technical manager

Specialty berry producer, BerryWorld Australia, has appointed seasoned agricultural professional Lee Peterson to the position of technical manager as it expands operations into Tasmania.

Dr Peterson is responsible for importing BerryWorld varieties from Europe and overseeing their propagation and commercialisation at BerryWorld Australia's growing regions in Queensland and Tasmania.

BerryWorld Australia is a joint venture between leading fruit producer Piñata Farms and global berry brand, BerryWorld Group. BerryWorld Australia has exclusive Australian access to proprietary strawberry, raspberry and blackberry genetics from the European-based BerryWorld Plus breeding program.

Dr Peterson, has extensive experience in agricultural production spanning 30 years including new crop development, horticultural production systems, plant extracts and waste stream management.

Appointed in July after consulting to BerryWorld for 18 months, he oversees the development of specialty berry growing operations at Wamuran and Stanthorpe in Queensland. He will also oversee the establishment and development of a 20-hectare farm at Orielton, southern Tasmania, including the construction of polytunnels, a packhouse and recruitment of some 30 employees by 2020.

Tasmania to become leading raspberry region

Once it reaches full production of all lines, the Tasmanian farm will produce premium strawberries, raspberries and blackberries for the Australian market and become a key Australian growing region for BerryWorld raspberries.

Dr Peterson said his first priority was to successfully multiply some 12 berry varieties to commercial planting quantities.

"Under Australian quarantine law, we can import only two individual plants of each variety at a time and each has to remain in quarantine for two years. Once they're out of quarantine, they have to be propagated into commercial planting quantities.

"It's a slow and expensive process which is preceded by seven or eight years of breeding trials before the plants arrive here,' he said.

Raspberry planting is expected to begin at Orielton in 2019 and the first harvest is expected in late 2020. Strawberry trials will be also undertaken during this time, while blackberries will continue the quarantine process.

Year 'round raspberries on the agenda

"The immediate challenge is to grow sufficient raspberries to meet demand and to produce the best-tasting raspberries in Australia so that consumers can have confidence in the consistency and reliability of BerryWorld raspberries.

"We're already growing raspberries at Stanthorpe and have achieved excellent results in small volumes so far. The growing conditions in Tasmania are perfectly suited to berry production, as summer days rarely exceed 30 degrees Celsius, and we're confident the quality will exceed anything else available.

"The geographic isolation of Tasmania itself is an added advantage due to the reduced biosecurity risk, which is why this will become the main raspberry growing region for BerryWorld Australia. There's also the potential to export raspberries into Asia in the future," he said.

Dr Peterson said BerryWorld Australia's diverse growing regions would enable it to produce raspberries year 'round from 2020 for distribution to Tasmania and the Eastern Seaboard.

A former sheep farm in a dry-land area with no existing infrastructure, the Orielton farm will be irrigated from the River Derwent under the South-East Irrigation Scheme.

All berries will be grown in substrate under polytunnels.

Posted: 31 Aug 2018