27 Apr 2024

Matteo Scandola: speed, freshness and integration to bring berries from Verona to the world


"Speed and freshness, that's our secret," explains Matteo Scandola, CEO of Azienda Agricola Scandola Fruit. Since 1971, when the first greenhouses were built, the company has specialised in strawberries, and to these it later added blueberries and raspberries to complete the range of berries, making it one of the leading Italian producers in the sector.

You are in the province of Verona, an area particularly favoured by its proximity to markets and logistics services.

It often only takes us a few hours to deliver a last-minute order to our customers. This is essential to guarantee a high quality product that can be sold at its freshest.

What are the characteristics required by your customers?

For strawberries, depending on the needs of our customers, we are focusing on taste, which is particularly appreciated in the wholesale markets, on homogeneity of size and colour, i.e. on resistance to a product that does not mark after picking.

What range of products do you offer throughout the year?

Our company specialises in three products: strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. This allows us to be uninterruptedly on the market from April to October.

Strawberries, produced in 12 hectares of above-ground plantings, are available from April to the beginning of June and then again from September to December. Raspberries are seasonal from May to November, with a break in July.

As far as blueberries are concerned, we have focused on a well timed varietal range, which allows us to produce from June to September, extending the season until October with cold storage.

You have recently given your company a new look. What were the principles that inspired the restyling?

The logo is made up of three integrated graphic elements: a circle representing the world, a green leaf depicting our plant propagation activity and a red fruit telling of our products, our production for the markets. The close integration of these three elements describes our special characteristics, in particular the specialisation we derive from controlling all stages of production, from the seedlings to the finished product.

This new image characterises our packaging and all activities within the company: in the warehouse, in the farm, on our means of transport.

What is the future of strawberry growing in Verona?

The strawberry sector in Verona has undergone drastic downsizing in recent years, when production was reduced to a third of its historical peak. Among the various reasons for this crisis are the difficulties in generational turnover and the high investments required to convert production and set up production facilities outside the soil.

So is there a future for out-of-soil production?

We made this transition starting ten years ago with the first strawberry plantings above ground; for the last three years all our production has been out-of-soil. Overall, this allows us a more controlled management of quality and results, with benefits that outweigh the effort required by the higher investments. In other words, thanks to greater standardisation, the higher costs are absorbed through a more constant and reliable market presence.

One last question on how you manage post-harvest, the delicate phase that connects production to customers.

The cold chain is a strategic aspect for the berries we handle: we take great care with the timing and handling of the product after harvest and never more than an hour passes between harvest and refrigeration. The chilling facilities are close to the production facilities and we have sufficient cooling capacity to handle even peak production. The processing room is also temperature controlled to minimise temperature changes and preserve product quality and shelf life.

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