The Bioinnovation Center of the Faculty of Marine Sciences of the University of Antofagasta (CBIA), together with a group of farmers, was able to consolidate the blueberry cultivation project in the region thanks to successful work on the impact of bioalgae on desert agriculture. This cultivation project, which arouses interest due to its marked innovative imprint, already has plants installed in the innovation center and on the lands of the Cooperativa de Campesinos Atacameños Lickanantay located in the town of Toconao, 10 kilometers from San Pedro de Atacama.
The "Productive diversification of the Antofagasta Region through the development of blueberry crops in arid areas with improved soil through microalgal hydrolysate" initiative was financed by the Agricultural Innovation Fund (FIA) and was launched on November 18, 2022. The project immediately began to attract attention, also encouraged by the good results of the cultivation of blueberries in Peru under similar weather conditions, which would allow the production of this desired berry with plants grown in pots.
"The importance of this project is that it is based on the productive diversification of the region. It would allow producers in the area to grow blueberries, a fruit that's had a worldwide boom and that's only cultivated in the south of Chile and in the Coquimbo region," stated Loreto Cavieres, a researcher at the Bioinnovation Center of the University of Antofagasta (CBIA).
The UA professionals have had to face this challenge taking into account different factors such as climate, high radiation, the almost absence of rain, and land availability. An alliance was forged with the farmers of Toconao and with the Paisaje Antofagasta company to finish giving life to this innovative initiative that already has 420 plants of the Emerald variety in Toconao and 120 in the CBIA facilities in the regional capital.
The project's goals are for farmers in the area to know and internalize the productive management of blueberries, and to generate technological transfer that allows them to diversify their productive matrix, currently focused on the cultivation of vines.
"Due to the soil requirements that farmers have for the creation of their orchards, the project must base its technological transfer on the possibility of leaving soils that have been improved with microalgae so that, for example, producers don't have to bring natural fertilizers from other regions," Cavieres stated.