Farming, our philosophy
Our philosophy is simple – we should be able to walk into our field at any time and eat whatever we want straight off the plant, knowing that what we’re eating has nothing harmful and is healthy.
Using time tested production methods coupled with modern technologies, we grow healthy, flavourful, fresh, hand selected and hand harvested berries for discerning consumers.
Farming for sustainability
At Berry Sweet, we manage about 100 hectares of of WA's agricultural land.
Investing in the following key areas of our operation is of utmost importance to us and a key to our success:
our land base
long-term seasoned labour with high technical abilities and production knowledge
production and packing facilities
production protocols and standards
In the fresh berry business we are known for our reliability, communication and integrity.
Our knowledge, team, facilities and commitment to quality are the "Berry Sweet" advantage and ensure we offer a premium product on-time to our clients.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
Berry Sweet is committed to producing berries with the least amount of chemical inputs. We continually monitor our crop and control a lot of the main pests by putting other insects in the crop to eat the pest. So the good bugs eat the bad bugs so we don't have to spray chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment.
This means we don’t rely on only chemical treatment, we let nature do the work.
We also have hundreds of thousands of bees to pollinate the crop. They don’t tolerate harsh insecticides so this is our last resort. 95% of the time, insects win the battle.
The aim of IPM is to maximise the use of biological control. Other control measures, especially chemicals, must play a supportive rather than disruptive role. Chemicals should not be used on a ‘calendar’ basis but strictly when needed, as defined by systematic pest monitoring. Selective rather than broad spectrum chemicals should take preference. The aim is to produce high quality marketable produce by intelligently using the various control options to manage pests.
The advantages of IPM are:
reduced development of pesticide resistance
reduced health risk to spray operators
reduced chemical contamination of food and the environment
reduced dependence on chemicals; hence IPM is a step towards sustainable agriculture
better plant health giving improved quality and production
Growing under tunnels
Why do we grow in tunnels?
Tunnels keep the plant warm and dry. This reduces the need for the use of fungicides as the plants stay dry, even in winter. Growing under tunnels mean that we have better control over the tempratures that the plants are exposed to allowing us to extend our season and produce the sweetest tasting fruit all year round.
Plus, our workers love the fact that they never get wet!
Growing hydroponically means that rather than growing the plant in ground soil, the plant is grown in a bag filled with coconut fibre.
Why do we grow hydroponically? There are many benefits to growing fruit hydroponically. We don't just do this to get more fruit per plant, but we use less water and fertiliser as their application is more targeted. It also means that fertiliser is not put directly into the soil and as we grow, we are able to implement technologies in the future that allow us to recycle fertiliser and water which would have otherwise gone to waste.
We use a "tabeltop" system at our farm in Pemberton, as the plants are grown at waist height rather than on the ground, this keeps dirt off the fruit and is much better for workers who don't have to bend over all day. A happy workers is a more productive worker.
All fruit is picked and packed in the field meaning that the fruit is only touched once before you buy it. This means less damaged berries and better shelf life.
"The Seasonal Worker Programme offers employers in the agriculture sector and employers in selected locations in the accommodation and tourism sectors access a reliable, returning workforce when there is not enough local Australian labour to meet seasonal demand." (www.employment.gov.au/seasonal-worker-programme)
The Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) is a Government approved scheme which is heavily regulated by Fair Work Australia. Berry Sweet currently uses two SWP approved employment agencies supplying workers to pick strawberries. The employment agencies look after the workers' pastoral care which involves organising working visas, health insurance, return flights, transport, suitable accommodation, assisting the farm during induction and arranging Fair Work visits to explain worker working rights whilst in Australia.
The benefits of this scheme are:
Stable supply of reliable workers with an excellent attendance rate, of which we anticipate at least 70% will return each season. This cuts down on continuously re training new workers, therefore increasing quality and decreasing waste.
Helps secure a consistent supply of berries by supplying workers to semi remote areas like Pemberton where it’s not always easy to get workers; especially on short notice.
SWP is currently running on farms across Australia with a high success rate. Many farms have been using SWP for several years, so it has a proven track record. Key factors of success are good productivity, returning workforce & high attendance rates.