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Bert Mucci with Mucci Farms discusses new innovations and company expansion
From greenhouse-grown strawberries to living lettuce and bite-size tomatoes
Greenhouse-grown strawberries difficult to grow
Two years ago, Mucci Farms launched its greenhouse-grown strawberries, Smuccies™, as part of small trial. “We haven’t even had a full year-end yet, but I believe this is the future,” says Bert Mucci with Mucci Farms. We are partnering with two Dutch strawberry growers; Ton Bastiaansen and Joost van Oers. “We tried it on our own for two years, but couldn’t get it right. A greenhouse-grown strawberry is the most difficult product to grow. There is so much to know and we didn’t have the knowledge. Partnering with Ton and Joost made a huge difference,” shared Mucci. Smuccies™ were commercially launched on a big expansion last season and the company is doing another expansion in Kingsville, Ontario this season, resulting in 24 acres of greenhouse-grown strawberries.
“This expansion will not only reinforce our status as the largest in-house strawberry grower in North America, it will help us meet our goals of producing the best tasting strawberries on the continent, accommodate the increasing demand for clean fruits and vegetables, and continue to build Mucci Farms as a trusted brand for consumers.”
Year-round supply and better labor conditions
Mucci feels there is strong demand for in-house strawberries, because the product is clean. “They are much cleaner than open-field berries. You don’t have to wash them.” Another benefit is that they are always in season. “With our next expansion, we will have year-round supplies.” According to Mucci, the harvest conditions for the laborers are another advantage of greenhouse-grown strawberries. “Picking open-field grown strawberries is back-breaking whereas in our greenhouse, the gutters are elevated and picking takes place at 1.50 meters above the ground. It offers better conditions for our workers,” Mucci said.
30,000 heads of lettuce harvested daily
An expansion of its strawberry acreage is not the only development Mucci Farms has in the works. “We are also growing our Naked Leaf™Living Lettuce line,” shared Mucci. “We started with this line 1.5 years ago and will expand our greenhouse to six acres. That will allow us to produce 30,000 heads of lettuce per day.”
Mucci Farms’ The Naked Leaf™ Living Lettuce line includes traditional butterhead lettuce along with frisée varieties, all grown in an automated proprietary state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse.
The product doesn’t need to be washed. It is packed and shipped right from the greenhouse. “The reason why this product is so popular is because it offers the retailers security,” said Mucci. “We grow it year-round and produce 30,000 heads of lettuce 365 days per year. That means the world to a produce buyer,” he added. “We support them in making their jobs easier.” Customers can buy Naked Leaf™ Living lettuce with and without the root. It is shipped the way retail partners prefer it based on consumer feedback at the store level.
Cherto acreage expands from 1 to 10 acres
If this wasn’t enough, Mucci Farms is also setting the bar high for its newly launched Cherto™ Gourmet Cherry Tomatoes on The Vine. “We did a small trial last year and decided to expand to one acre. Next year, we will be growing 10 acres of Cherto™ tomatoes, all in Kingsville Ontario,” shared Mucci. “What is unique about Cherto™ is that it is a small bite-sized tomato, kept on-the-vine to preserve the highest level of flavor and has a high brix level. This variety is doing very well, but it takes a lot to be successful in the tomato category.” There are many other greenhouse growers who grow high quality product but in the end, it all comes down to collaborative partnerships between growers and retailers, great service and execution.
“It is important to do what you say you are going to do. We gain the majority of our business and continue to grow that business by working closely with our retail partners on all facets of the process, from seed to table. From trialing several seed varieties for specific retailers to working collaboratively with sales and marketing teams. We pride ourselves on building great relationships with our partners by offering the best service and best quality produce in the industry,” Mucci concluded.
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