The Scottish strawberry season got off to a later start this year, as did the whole UK crop. This was due to the low light levels and colder weather, but picking is now in full swing at Angus Soft Fruit’s Arbroath farms.
“We started picking on 6th of May,” said Allen Innes, Farm Manager at East Seaton and Rosemount farms. “We are at the first peak this week and next, picking around 20 tonnes per day. The advantage of a slower start is that the fruit has much higher sugars.”
Allen Innes and Miryana McKay
There has been concern in the lead up to harvest that Scottish and English seasons would clash, but that has not been the case, though it could still happen as the season progresses according to Allen.
Labour is a worry for growers across the UK, but Allen said they are okay at the moment and the quality of the labour is good, even with a higher-than-normal number of first timers. Angus Soft Fruits have been proactive in educating pickers, creating videos and giving them information on what to expect on arrival.
AVA Magnum® strawberries
As well as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are also grown at East Seaton Farm in 1200 tunnels.
Angus Soft Fruits has the IP rights to the AVA® Berries varieties and recently released three new varieties, AVA™ Alicia, AVA™ Catalina, and AVA™ Sofia which are intended for production in the Mediterranean region.
AVA Magnum® strawberries
“We have our own breeding facility, Sandbrook Grounds in Evesham, where we can trial different varieties to see how they will grow in various climates,” explains Jill Witheyman, Head of Marketing at Angus. “We can see how these varieties will perform in our growing regions in Scotland, England, Spain and Morocco. This helps us in joining the season up for complete supply.
“One variety which performs extremely well in Scotland is the AVA Magnum®. It grows perfectly in the Scottish climate, especially the micro climate we enjoy on the east coast. The sugars develop slowly making it incredibly sweet, it looks great, perfectly heart shaped, deep red colours and has a long shelf life.”
Miryana McKay with some of trial raspberries
As part of the commitment to innovation, there are trial sites on many of the Angus Soft Fruits farms. At the East Seaton Farm there are advanced trials of three new premium raspberry varieties which have been bred in the in-house Breeding Programme.
There are three main varieties in trials, but the pick of the crop so far is AVA® Monet. “We have been doing trials for 6-7 years,” said Miryana McKay, agronomist at Angus Growers. “We are a grower owned business, so our varieties have to be good for our growers as well as for consumers. The AVA® Monet raspberry vine is compact and easy to pick, with large fruit (8g). It has a great colour and shape and is very sweet, it also has 9 days shelf life and is perfect for the premium market.”
Angus Soft Fruits also has a fantastic program to encourage more young people into the sector, kids from a local high school visit the farm and learn about the whole process involved in growing fruit, from planting, to picking, to marketing. They also learn about the different growing regions and how the supply flows through the year.
“The kids make a few visits to the farm during the season, first to learn about growing and visit the packhouse, they also do a taste test and scan the QR codes and give their views on the taste. They then create a recipe and have to make a marketing plan and put it before our ‘Dragon’s Den’ panel. By doing this we hope to show them that there is more to berries than picking and packing,” said Jill.
Kids from a local school being shown how strawberries are planted
This has been coupled with a programme for Primary aged children to learn all about farm to fork principles, where the children grow their own strawberry plants in their classrooms. They are also given the opportunity to visit our farms and see fruit growing on a commercial scale. Angus Soft Fruits has also worked closely with “Developing the Young Workforce” and with several Apprenticeship schemes.
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