Blue Skies fruit company has operations in Ghana, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil and the UK where they specialise in fresh-cut fruit, juices and ice cream. They supply these products into markets around the world and have just launched fruit juices and fresh-cut fruit into Dubai and will soon bring their ice creams to the US.
The company also have plans for the future: Simon Derrick from the company said that they are looking into making papaya more accessible to consumers. "It is a fantastic fruit with loads of health benefits. For suppliers and consumers, it can be difficult to get it right but we are now confident that we’ve cracked it and are excited to share this superfood widely and accessibly.”
These days packaging is seen as the enemy by many consumers, which makes life tricky for fruit processors and fresh-cut suppliers. Blue Skies is however working on finding more sustainable solutions. They are also exploring opportunities to partner with the UK Government's Department for International Development (DIFID) to enhance the environmental impact of their operations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In addition Blue Skies have also been keen to support the communities and farmers who grow their fruit and this year sees the 10th anniversary of the Blue Skies Foundation, which has launched 100 projects in 10 years.. A part of the foundation is the School Farm of the Year Competition which was started in 2015 as a way of encouraging more young people to take an interest in farming, and to help raise the profile of agriculture.
"We spoke to the farmers on how best to do this, they said all schools used to have a school garden to teach kids about growing crops, but in more recent years these have been phased out and kids have been made to weed as a form of punishment, which does not encourage them to be farmers! We wanted to change this. We started with 12 schools and now have 60, as well as organising the competition each year we offer help and advice to the schools on how to grow the crops, these are sold and provide an income for the schools."
In the competition, schools are required to setup and manage their own ‘School Farms’ and submit business plans to ensure their sustainability. Teams of inspectors made up of agricultural experts visit the participating schools periodically to assess their performance and ultimately determine the winners. The prizes are much needed lap tops and computers.
"It has had a huge impact on the communities, and also encourages the younger generation to go into farming."
The Foundation has, over the years built training centres for the farmers, installed IT facilities, clinics as well as simple things like bore holes for fresh water and toilet blocks which both stop the spread of disease.