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Bernard Breman:

“Ready for start of kiwi berry season despite frost damage”

Kiwi berries and tayberries, these aren’t the most obvious cultivations chosen by Bernard Breman when he switched careers and started growing fruit in 2010. “Of course I could’ve started growing apples or pears, but there are already so many of those. I wanted to do something different. That’s why I started looking around for unknown fruits, and ended up with kiwi berries and tayberries.”

That’s how he started with 1.5 hectares of kiwi berry and 0.5 hectare of tayberry on the land by his home. “The latter we mostly did to spread the risk a bit. It takes about three years before you can harvest kiwi berries, and you also have to make some money in that time, and tayberries can be harvested after a year. However, it did turn out to be a very fragile type of fruit. That’s why we started reducing the cultivation of tayberries, and we now only have 2,000 m2 left for processing into juice, jam and dessert sauce. That’s going very well. But our focus is on kiwi berries. Besides, that cultivation is so intense that we can’t do anything else during the harvesting period.”

By now the kiwi berry area of the fruit growing company Breman consists of 3.5 hectares, only 1 of which is in full production. “We quickly saw there’s plenty of demand, and are planting more and more. We primarily supply Veiling Hoogstraten, supplemented by some regional shops and local wholesalers. Last year, Veiling Hoogstraten purchased a new sorting machine especially for kiwi berries, and that’s quite an improvement. The machine perfectly selects the kiwi berries by, among other traits, firmness and size. That’s very important, because they have to be eaten at the right moment. Just like regular kiwifruit, kiwi berries haven’t got the right flavour yet when they’re hard.”

“Much research has been done into the health aspects of kiwi berries. Kiwi berries have a high Vitamin C content, twice as high as lemon and 50 times as high as apples. Kiwi berries also contain about 300 ppm polyphenol, which have an advantageous health effect and are responsible for removing free radicals,” Bernard explains. “So we have a small vitamin bomb in our own country.”

Hardly any material to compare it to
“Naturally the cultivation is quite a gamble. We got the kiwi berry shrubs from Belgium, from a company that started growing kiwi berries two years earlier. Besides these growers, we had little to no material to compare it to. By now we have a lot of contact with other kiwi berry growers and professor Filip Debersaque from University College Ghent, who has done much research into kiwi berries, and who functions as our cultivation counsellor,” Bernard says.

That doesn’t mean the cultivation is easy now. “Growing kiwi berries is difficult and labour intensive. For example, the kiwi berries can withstand frost in winter, but in spring, when they start getting buds, they can no longer bear any frost at all. This spring we had to irrigate during 16 nights, but unfortunately we couldn’t save the product in late April, when it was eight degrees Celsius below zero. Sixty per cent of our harvest froze,” Bernard continues.

The grower is not put off by this setback. “I can’t wait to start harvesting again next week. I have an enormous amount of confidence in the kiwi berries. They are still unknown, but their popularity is gaining ground every year. Roughly three years ago no one knew what they were, but people who try them are incredibly enthusiastic. There’s too little supply now to really conquer the market, after all, the cultivation is still in its infancy, but in a few years more kiwi berries will come into production, and the product will become better known then.”    

For more information:
Fruitteeltbedrijf B. Breman
Winkelsteeg 1 a
7975 PV Uffelte (Dr.)
tel +31 (0)6 55 140 930

Publication date: 8/21/2017


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