Tessara’s launch of their Berrisys product for blueberries came at exactly the right time, when many blueberry exporters from South Africa were looking at a sea freight alternative to air freight.
“It was fortunate that we had this product ready when Covid-19 impacted the world fruit industry,” says Jaco Smit, CEO of Cape Town-based Tessara. “Cost was already a major factor in trying to avoid flying out most of the fruit before 2020, but air travel choked to a trickle a year ago and growers were ready to innovate to get their produce in volume to market on time. We had various commercial options ready and the success in the months that followed was very satisfying to see.”
Berrisys produces a low dose of SO2, shielding berries from fungal attack (photos supplied by Tessara)
Gerhard Slabbert who manages the Berrisys product for Tessara remarks: “We’ve had some very positive feedback from clients saying that they saw big differences in arrival quality in market QC reports. In some cases this avoids the need for re-working of fruit in some cases, and more than 20% of the value of the fruit was saved.”
He adds that it was also a quick learning curve for blueberry exports since they don’t yet know the technology as well as grape exporters. It is nice to see the options for exports expand for them.
Tessara’s Uvasys range of sulphur dioxide generators is well-known in the table grape industry.
Berrisys produces a very low dose of sulphur dioxide that shields the berries from fungal attack from Botrytis cinerea (grey mould) for weeks on end. It is a universal post-harvest fungal pathogen responsible for decay and fruit losses, even under properly maintained cold chain conditions.
Food waste reduction
“Our goal is to reduce fresh produce waste,” notes Elton Williams of Tessara’s Research & Development team. They have been working towards this solution for blueberries since 2017; post-harvest fruit losses come with many additional costs in packaging, labour and transport.
Grey mould on blueberries contributes to food waste
“We had to get a product out there that growers could trust," Elton continues. "Something that would work for them even if conditions weren’t perfect. We also had to ensure that our products work well with the newer range of blueberry varieties that are taking markets by storm.”
Production volumes have grown globally to keep up with rising demand, but even sea freight has been difficult with many ports impacted by the pandemic. The advent of a product that protects and preserves blueberries during shipping and reduces the risk of losses during delays is timeous, the company says.