17 Apr 2024

Cuna de Platero is focusing its R&D investments on blackberries and Artificial Intelligence


Cuna de Platero expects a good strawberry harvest in April. Research and variety development are key for the future. The cooperative Cuna de Platero (Moguer/Huelva) specializes in strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Currently, it has more than 100 members with a cultivation area of 900 hectares. Innovation is one of its hallmarks. Fruchthandel spoke with Juan Fco Báñez, General Director of Cuna de Platero, about the strawberry campaign and new projects.

Mr. Báñez, how is the strawberry campaign going? 

Juan Fco Báñez: The season is influenced by the weather. This year is slightly more humid than usual and is characterized by the absence of excessive production peaks. Our production and marketing expectations are being met. The season is developing normally. 

Currently, the situation in the fields is positive with slightly lower production in March than forecasted. The drop in temperatures over the past few weeks has slowed down development in the fields. But April seems promising in terms of a good harvest and meeting market demand. So far, the demand has been good and stable in European markets, indicating a desire to consume. 

Prices are normal for this point in the campaign. As mentioned, April looks to be a positive month. Our quantities are starting to increase from this first week, and we hope to have a good spring strawberry campaign.

Juan Báñez, direttore generale di Cuna de Platero

What are your main strawberry varieties this season? 

We have maintained the same line as in previous years because it has worked well. Our main variety is Rociera, although we also have Marisma and other early varieties. 

Our variety strategy is based on Rociera, which stands out mainly for its flavor. 

There are many new varieties, but none of them has yet reached sufficient volume to stand out. Some look promising, especially the early varieties, but they are still in the testing phase, and we still need to assess their development, both in terms of production and markets.

How is the raspberry season going? 

It is characterized by a slightly lower supply than usual. In general, the sector has planted fewer raspberries due to the difficulties of previous campaigns. As a result, the supply is slightly lower, both from Spain and other countries of origin. 

So far, prices are slightly higher than usual compared to other periods. This is due to the limited supply and product, which we hope to offset next year by increasing production to meet all markets.

How is the blueberry season going? It has been linear and very stable from the beginning. We are very satisfied with Cupla, a variety that is performing better and better. Farmers are familiar with it and produce early and fresh quality blueberries, just as markets demand. With Cupla, we can provide good, fresh European-origin blueberries, which can be on EU markets within three or four days from southern Spain.

Blackberries and AI, focus of R&D investments

Currently, Cuna de Platero has a new research center for the development of blueberry and blackberry varieties, as well as for R&D. One of the most important commitments in our business strategy is the R&D area, and in this context, the research center is nearing the completion of its development phase, and the laboratory is under construction. 

One of our current research lines is blackberries. We are looking for a variety with good taste, easy to eat, that maintains its color until the end, and has a good post-harvest phase. Thornless to facilitate harvesting, which is very important. But above all, we want a variety that allows us to expand beyond the production window in Huelva, which focuses on May, and offer quality blackberries in other periods as well. 

We believe that this fruit has a promising future. But to get started, we need a variety that allows us to break away from the seasonal nature that we currently have in Huelva during the spring. A variety with these characteristics would be a very interesting product for Europe.

There is much talk about artificial intelligence these days. Are there any projects in this direction? 

Artificial intelligence has naturally integrated into our daily work. There are already many technologies based on AI, whether in computing, management, mechanical engineering, artificial vision, etc. AI can help the berry sector in many aspects. I think it will mainly help manage all available data more quickly and organize it in a way that allows us to make better forecasts for harvests, production, and all other areas necessary for the development of our activity.

What are the goals for this season? 

Achieve a good seasonal result and prepare for the next campaign. It is also important that our research center achieves new varieties and other improvements that strengthen our position in the markets. The key to the future lies in research and variety development. If we achieve new successful varieties, we want them to be accessible to all farmers, without limiting production to groups where only a few benefit. 

The new varieties must be open so that markets grow, and consumption increases on a general level. I think this should be the top goal of our sector.

Source: Fruchthandel

Cover photo Roberto Barresi - Pixabay

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