08 May 2024

Battistini Vivai's vertical farm opens a new era of berries micropropagation

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At Battistini Vivai, with the inauguration of the micropropagation lab, we enter a new era. More digital, robotic, sustainable (the structure's roof is covered with a photovoltaic system) and with a strong focus on research.

In Cesena, micropropagation is an old story, dating back to 1970, but with this vertical farm a clear process of innovation in production is evident. Robots play an important role, although the human eye and hand remain essential in some production phases, working with surgical precision, the workers use tweezers resembling scalpels, selecting the material obtained in vitro.

Italian Berry during the inauguration ceremony, with an attached guided tour inside the company, met Sandra Laghi commercial manager and point of contact for berries.

How much does the new lab play in terms of innovation and improving the company's competitiveness?  

A lot. In the berry world, there is a fervent activity of genetic improvement, and the micropropagation activity definitely has a strong impact thanks to the ability to produce on a large scale what the breeder brings to us and we multiply.

It also allows us to export to countries where varieties in peat or soil could not enter. The in vitro product allows commercial development in more countries such as, for example, New Zealand, Australia, and also Chile. Countries where the entry of plant material in peat is prohibited. In vitro definitely opens doors.

Does the new lab close a circle?

A nursery activity with a propagation lab behind it is a complete operation. Battistini Nurseries internally ensures the entire cycle: from the production of micropropagated plants to acclimatization activities, then bulking in pots or soil up to the sale and grafting. A full-cycle company and service.

Are berries increasingly at the center of your activity?

There is growing interest. A trend that has started several years ago and is confirming itself. Our choice is proving correct with the vision that the trend will continue to grow. Berries are talked about and eaten everywhere. They are plants that we have alway on offer, they have become annual products available 12 months with the fresh.

Massimiliano Meneghini, director of Vitroleaf

How many countries do you serve?

Much of the European Community and there is great interest from Eastern European countries, even more so those Russian-speaking with very large producers. Countries like Georgia, becoming more important and growing. Not to forget Azerbaijan and Armenia, countries unknown to us until a few years ago and now running.

Which berry is the most requested?

All are competitive, but blueberries and raspberries are ahead. The demand is no longer seasonal also thanks to genetic improvement. Today we no longer imagine them as classic woodland fruits. They are becoming something else, so we can grow berries at a thousand meters but also at sea level. We have the introduction of two families of berries: low chill and traditional medium-high chill varieties.

They can be grown, if we think about Italy from Sicily to Bolzano. And this discussion applies not only to Italy, but worldwide. From the Caucasus to Morocco where there are large producers.

Your production data?

In our production that includes about 12 million plants produced by micropropagation, approximately 10% is berries. We are at 1 million, 1.5 million seedlings.


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