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Italy: Introducing niche products to make a difference"When we improved the agricultural practice to keep up with the times, we did not disregard the founding principles of the farming tradition passed on to us by our forefathers. It's a question of respecting the land and the people who get nourishment from it," explains Angelo Bellomo when describing his family business located in Mazara del Vallo (TP).
Soil-less cherry tomatoes
Azienda Agricola Bellomo di Agnello Caterina was established in 2010 on the example of Azienda Agricola Bellomo Giuseppe, now managed by his son Angelo.
The company covers a little over 6 hectares. The closeness to the sea, combined with favourable climate and soil conditions, makes it possible to grow vegetables throughout the year on open fields (5Ha), polytunnels (5,000 sq m) and greenhouses (6,000 sq m soil-less).
Iceberg lettuce in a polytunnel
"Our company philosophy is based on the right combination between tradition and innovation, where the knowledge passed on by my grandfather to my father is employed alongside new techniques and technologically-advanced greenhouses, where we grow soil-less basil and winter tomatoes. The priority is keeping temperature and humidity under constant control to avoid the onset of diseases, therefore minimising the treatments needed."
In open fields, the company grows mainly leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, endive, chicory, lettuce and parsley throughout the year. Other crops such as tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, chilli peppers, courgettes, cucumbers, green beans etc. are added during summer and crops like cauliflowers, kohlrabi, Savoy cabbage, cabbage, turnip greens, kale, etc. are introduced in winter.
The company deals with competition by constantly introducing new products that arouse the curiosity of consumers.
"In order to be more competitive on the market, three years ago we introduced leeks, round radicchio, sugarloaf chicory, curly cabbage, kale, topinambur, New Zealand spinach as well as red and purple potatoes - all crops new to our area."
Goji berries grown in open fields
"For the past two years, we have been testing some new products: 20 plants of physalis peruviana, 150 plants of Goji berries and 20 of moringa oleifera, which are very popular with direct sales. We haves started selling products directly as it's more profitable this way."
Annual production is organised as such:
|Chard||105780 bunches||12 months|
|Chicory||28620 bunches||12 months|
|Spinach||66590 bunches||Sep. - Jun.|
|Curly endive||68300 bunches||12 months|
|Broad-leaved endive||53600 bunches||12 months|
|Canasta lettuce||18468 heads||12 months|
|Butterhead lettuce||40160 heads||12 months|
|Roman lettuce||17600 heads||12 months|
|Date tomatoes||14000 kg||Dec.- Jul.|
|Cherry tomatoes||14500 kg||Dec.- Jul.|
|Ribbed tomatoes||10000 kg||Dec.- Jul.|
"In the future, we plan on specialising in the cultivation of niche products and diversifying our sales channels by introducing e-commerce as well, especially since we grow products that are not easy to find and are interesting for the professional restaurant industry all over Italy and beyond."
Azienda Agricola Bellomo di Agnello Caterina
Via Delle Serre, sn.
91026 Mazara del Vallo (TP) ITALY
Tel.: +39 3387565602
Publication date: 9/27/2017
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