Seagraves says it has been improved and is still used in many situations. Marta Baptista, who is the Global Director of Strategic Research and Development, discussed a range of projects that Driscoll’s has undertaken to improve its production practices. For example, one research team recently concluded a project where it looked at fertilizer and water use across 20 different growing sites. It discovered an eight- fold difference in production caused by environmental and management practices. She estimated that management practices accounted for roughly half of the difference. By developing best practices, Baptista said significant improvements can be made to lower input use while increasing yields. She also discussed mechanical harvesting work specifically being done on raspberries and strawberries. While success on that front is a few years down the road, Baptista said it is on the horizon. Another labor-saving project is one that involves the use of unmanned spraying equipment. Management of cover crops also is being researched as another way to reduce the use of inputs.

Several of the Driscoll’s researchers discussed how the breeding program is being utilized to reduce labor. In other countries in which it operates, most notably Australia, table top production makes it easier for workers to harvest the berries. Strawberries are literally being grown above the ground on table-top type structures. “There is extremely high use of table top farming in other areas,” said Komar, indicating that the need is greater there because of lack of labor and the high cost of labor. He added that the worldwide breeding program has multiple goals including altering the architecture of a berry plant so that the berries can be harvested faster and easier. Eric Reiter of Reiter Affiliated Companies, as well as a Driscoll’s Board Member and a grower, talked about some of the innovations that are making their way to the field. Reiter is focused on increasing plant density in the field, which can speed up the harvest and maximize labor, which he noted is becoming scarcer every season. He added that better management of farm practices is an important strategy

that can eliminate waste in the system and ultimately achieve the goal of doing more with less. Reiter said the fallback position of a farmer is when in doubt use more water and more nitrogen. He believes greater adoption of precision farming practices by utilizing agtech data offers great opportunities down the road to use fewer resources. Komar said another project that Driscoll’s has launched with Plenty Unlimited Inc. is the use of indoor farming projects to grow berries. The first facility is being built on 120 acres in Richmond, Virg., with production expected in time for the 2023-24 winter season. All these innovations and the research programs behind them are allowing Driscoll’s to remain the unchallenged worldwide leader in the berry category as it continually “delights” the world’s berry eaters.



Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com

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