Fruits of their labour | Breakthrough Funding

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Fruits of their labour

How do you reduce the use of pesticides without compromising the yield?

The continuing consumer shift towards environmentally friendly produce has presented a significant challenge for producers, particularly regarding pesticide use.

Although a move towards organic, chemical-free and ethically produced foods is certainly a positive one for both the environment and human health, it can have a negative impact on the quality of the produce, retail cost and the yield for the producer.

For a family-owned British farm that grows a variety of soft fruits and makes its own juices on site, there was a definite advantage to reducing the use of harmful chemicals and pesticides. But they faced the enormous problem of how to grow fruit pesticide-free, without losing huge amounts of produce to pests and diseases.

To solve this, the farm’s team embarked on a significant R&D project with a number of aims – primarily, to develop a unique chemical-free fruit propagation, testing and commercialisation system to identify disease resistant varieties.

The project presented a myriad of challenges for the team to solve. During their extensive R&D programme, they worked on ways to commercialise heritage varieties with natural disease resistance. These had become unpopular with commercial farmers due to their lower yields, smaller fruit and non-uniform shape. But the team understood that these varieties could be the key to a pesticide-free future 

Developing customised cutters for mechanical pruning led to an impressive labour reduction of 70%, while discovering a replacement wire for support frameworks cut installation time by 40%.

Enhancing soil quality, improving the testing process for superior breed identification and boosting process efficiency have also formed part of the team’s R&D activity, along with innovations in machinery, equipment and growing methods.

By taking the initiative with innovation, this farm has seen its hard work already starting to bear fruit.

 

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