BerryWorld Australia's summer berry harvest is underway in Queensland, after expanding operations in two states.
BerryWorld Australia are now harvesting strawberries daily and raspberries every second day, following ideal seasonal lead-in conditions.
Managing director Gavin Scurr said the southern Queensland summer strawberry harvest had seamlessly followed the Sunshine Coast's winter harvest.
Stanthorpe-produced strawberry sales had not been impacted by the contamination event in September which cost Australian Sunshine Coast-based growers millions in lost revenue.
Strawberries backed by safety systems
"It has been business as usual with our year 'round production of strawberries as our major customer, Woolworths, ensured BerryWorld strawberries remained on shelves during the event. That decision really helped us get through a tough time," Gavin Scurr said.
Metal detectors, CCTV cameras and tamper-proof, heat-sealed punnets, have been in use since our Australia launch in 2017, continuing to boost customer and consumer confidence in the premium offering.
Gavin Scurr said the raspberry category had experienced a positive shake-up in the past four years, with various new players entering, including BerryWorld Australia earlier this year.
"There are more raspberries and they are more affordable, which we expected. BerryWorld raspberries are performing extremely well with the exclusive genetics resulting in superior fruit with an outstanding shelf life.
"We're now focusing on expanding raspberry operations at Wamuran, Queensland and Orielton, Tasmania," he said.
Expanding and refining operations
BerryWorld Australia technical manager Dr Lee Peterson said while the new raspberry farms were being developed, existing berry operations at Stanthorpe were being refined.
"In our Stanthorpe strawberry operations, we have recently changed from a triple-tiered bench system to a double-tiered system. This gives us more control over consistent ripening," Dr Lee Peterson said.
"We've also started packing strawberries using customised trolleys designed to carry trays. Pickers require more training because, effectively we're bringing the QA role into the field, but this method minimises further handling and bruising."
Although the region had experienced a relatively mild start to summer, reflective shade-cloth imported from Europe had been installed at the summer-producing farm.
"The shade-cloth brings the overall light intensity down and reduces the in-tunnel temperature by up to eight degrees. This is kinder to fruit and pickers and helps extend the daily harvest time."
Several trial strawberry varieties from the BerryWorld Plus program were performing well and would be considered for commercialising next season, he said.
Raspberry production at Stanthorpe has increased exponentially since launching earlier this year and would double again next season (November to May).
"We've also implemented a new trellis design for the raspberry crop which allows for better canopy management and full use of the tunnels," he said.
Meanwhile, at Wamuran, 32 polytunnels are under construction, the Tasmanian farm is being connected to the South-East Irrigation Scheme and raspberry plants have been propagated for planting at both locations.
BerryWorld Australia are on track to produce raspberries year 'round from all regions by 2020.
Raspberry farm expansions:
- Wamuran, Queensland: 32 tunnels being erected for production in February 2019.
- Orielton, Tasmania: Farm development in progress for production in early 2020.
Berry packhouse systems:
- Metal detectors for all berry lines.
- CCTV cameras to protect produce and packers.
- Heat-sealed, tamper-proof, recyclable strawberry punnets with 30 per cent less packaging than traditional punnets.
Berry farm practices:
- A Zensie irrigation data platform which provides live details on plant moisture.
- Reflecting shadecloth to reduce light and tunnel temperature.
- Strawberries grown in substrate on a double-tiered bench system.
- Raspberries grown in pots, trained on trellises.
- Customised trolleys for in-field packing.
- All berry lines grown under polytunnels.