California fig grower using technology to extend shelf life

The California fig season is in full swing, with the first of the Black Mission fig seasons – the “Breba” crop - about to finish up. The main crop is due to start at the end of July, but there are also other fig varieties that are going to be in season shortly. The heavy rains that California experienced in late spring helped the fig trees and as a result, growers say the crop is of excellent quality.

“For us in the Fresno and Madera regions, the first fig season – the Breba crop – spanned from June 15 – June 30,” shared Casey Hollnagel of Vertical Foods. “It’s a very short, very fast season and overall, it’s been a good one. All that rain in California in spring produced a nice, heavy Breba crop. Despite the start of the season being on the later side, we saw good sizing, volume and quality. The market has been strong, with good prices.”

“We are expecting to start our main Black Mission season in about four weeks,” he added. “We will also have our green fig season soon, with our organic Calimyrna figs starting around July 15, followed by organic Kadotas from August 1. The Calimyrna season also lasts two weeks, before transitioning to Kadota.”

New innovation from Hazel Technologies to be used
As the main fig season approaches, Hollnagel said that Vertical Foods will be using a new technology that was developed by Hazel Technologies. The USDA-funded innovation is a sachet which is placed with the products while they are being stored or shipped. The sachet reportedly helps to keep products fresher and extend shelf life.

“We are looking forward to our second Black Mission season when we will use the new sachet from Hazel Technologies,” he shared. “Our own testing with figs has shown that it has slowed ripening and led to a longer shelf life. We are excited to roll this out and hopefully make a difference for us and our customers.”

Growing figs “hedge-style”
Fig growers like Vertical Foods are looking at ways in which to improve their growing practices. Hollnagel said the company has begun trials of growing fig trees in a hedge-style, which he describes as looking like a blueberry field. He feels that the industry needs to continually evolve to make sure it remains competitive.

“We are looking into some different growing practices on the ranches that we manage,” Hollnagel said. “By pruning and training our existing fig trees to grow in a hedge, we keep them closer to the ground. This makes fig cultivation more productive and lowers labor costs as we can harvest more efficiently and eliminate the use of ladders. We will be expanding that gradually over the next few years while monitoring the results.”

“The fig industry is changing and it will look a lot different in five years’ time,” he continued. “With rising costs, especially when it comes to labor, we need to look at ways in which we can compete better and lower our costs.”

For more information:
Casey Hollnagel
Vertical Foods
Ph: +1 (559) 743-0100

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