The Ukraine Report: Blueberry operation was on par to break records before the war broke out

Berries is a blueberry production company. In 2016, they were going to build cottages on the 55-hectare site and then plant nut orchards. But after some calculations and soil analyses, it became clear that this area was suitable for growing blueberries. Sandy soils with an acidity of 4-5 pH are the best conditions for this berry.

“Our plantation is one of the largest organic blueberry plantations in Europe. Its total planted area is 44 hectares. We grow 5 varieties of blueberries here. We have a fully automated irrigation system. There are 2 drip irrigation lines for each bush.”

In 2021, a blueberry harvested in the cooperative’s garden set a Ukrainian record for size, reaching 3.05 cm in diameter. It was Chandler, a large-fruited variety of North American selection. In general, this is a very large size for a berry that is organically grown.

“We are surprised that farmers doing conventional non-organic production cannot break this record. It would seem that they have all the tools to make the berry bigger, but no one does. We were preparing for this record, cutting these bushes, taking care of them, as we knew they had the potential for such a record.”

The Berries cooperative is sited in the Bucha district of Kyiv region. At the beginning of the full-scale invasion, the farm’s land was at the epicentre of hostilities. The entire territory of the farm was occupied by russian troops. In February 2022, there were about 30 workers at the farm trimming the garden. The management of the cooperative had to promptly evacuate employees from the war zone.

“The territory of the farm was hit twice. About 2 hectares of the garden were affected. We also had to completely reconnect the irrigation system because it was damaged. But after the de-occupation, we returned to our land and continue to work and develop our garden.”

In April 2022, the territory of the Berries co-operative was liberated from the russian military and the farm workers were back. In the same year, they managed to produce 140 tons of berries. Oleksandr Demochko finds this a fairly good result. In 2023, they produced 160 tons of blueberries.

“We have survived hostilities and occupation of our territory. Over the past two years, we have added two more wells, allowing us to modernise our irrigation system. So I am confident in saying that in 2024 we expect a blueberry harvest of 300 tons or more. We have everything we need for such a harvest. Despite the war in Ukraine, we continue to grow.”