Raspberries are very healthy and contain many vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidants. The raspberry also contains a lot of vitamin C, Vitamin B11, E and K as well as the minerals: manganese, magnesium, copper and potassium. Raspberries are also very rich in fiber. Precisely because of all these health benefits, the raspberries are called super-fruit. The European demand for fresh raspberries is high and rises annually by 7%. The price of good quality raspberries has been very high for years.
Why in Bosnia and Herzegovina?
Raspberries are fragile fruits and therefore have to be picked, sorted, weighed and packed by hand. That is the reason why many cultivations of raspberry have been moved to southern Europe or beyond. The labor in southern Europe is cheaper, but the transport is much more expensive. Bosnia has an ideal location in the middle of Europe. We will deliver our fresh raspberries within a radius of ‘only’ 800km, which includes northern Italy, Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany as easily accessible locations. Once the raspberries are picked in the morning, they will be delivered to the distribution centers in Verona, Bern, Vienna, Munich or Karlsruhe with our own truck in the evening. Our goal is to deliver raspberries to the distribution centers during the night, so they can be found in the supermarkets early in the morning.
Besides the good profitability, the project has a social purpose also. Local unemployment is 50%, which causes many people to live on the edge of poverty. The consequences of the last war (1992-1995) are still noticeable; many people are apathetic, the changes cannot be seen. They want to work; the work morale is good. Every day at least 20 people work on the plantation and sometimes the number goes up to 80.
According to the local standards, the employees are well paid. All employees are over 18 years old. The work hours are accurately tracked by a finger registration system. Of course, all workers are legally registered and covered with the health and retirement insurance. As usual in Bosnia, the employees are provided with a hot meal on the daily bases.
Professional management should originally come from the West. The daily management is in the hands of the university-trained agronomist from Bosnia; he is 28 years old and has experience in setting up new plantations according to the Integrated Pest Management method. During the build-up of the plantation and later during the harvest period, the manager from the Netherlands is continuously present.
Location & climate:
The plantation is on a slight slope in the village of Turija, about 250 meters above sea level. The mountain Ozren and the moderate clime are the natural protection from the extreme weather conditions such as hail. In summer, the average temperature is 25-30 degrees, just right for raspberries. The location on a slope is ideal for the raspberry plants, which means that there is a good drainage and the roots of the plants cannot be too wet. The wetness of the root is a common problem with raspberry cultivation.
The plantation is 35 hectares (350,000m2). The quality of the soil has been extensively tested by the University of Sarajevo and Eurofinns in Wageningen and is well suited for raspberry cultivation. As a fertilizer, first we used 350,000kg of manure on the land and plowed into the ground. This year the first 130,000m2 of the land was covered with the plants. In 2018, we want to plant the rest of the plantation. In October, we started the covering of the plants with the raincoats. Thy have a double function; sun and wind protection which is very important for shelf life. The plantation also has a good access roads.
All planting is irrigated. That was a big job. After drilling even at a depth of 124 meters, the suitable water was not found. Fortunately, we also own two hectares of land, two kilometers from the plantation. There we found enough water at 40 meters depth. This is the same water that the villagers use as a drinking water. We have thoroughly tested the water at the University of Sarajevo and at Eurofinns in Wageningen and according to their results it is pure water. The land between this well and our plantation is covered with mines from the last war and has to be cleaned. The big pipeline between the well and the plantation is 2 km long. The height difference is +/- 35 meters, which required a heavy pump.
Many raspberries that are offered in supermarkets in Western Europe are of average quality, the taste and shelf life re not long-lasting. Usually, shelf life is only a few days. For that reason, we have purchased high quality raspberry plants in the Netherlands with a good taste and a shelf life of +/- ten days. The average height of plants is 10 cm with roots. After five months, they grow up to 1 meter with somewhere between 40 and 130 fruits per plant. However, the plants are too young to give more fruits this year. The first real harvest is expected in August 2018. By the end of this year, all plants will be cut to ten cm above the ground. From the beginning of 2018 they will start to grow again and will come up to somewhere between 150 and 200 cm
high. The life span of the plants is at least 15 years.
Plant life time:
In order to improve the shelf life of plants we have built a special Cooling Storage on our plantation. Immediately after picking, in the cooling storage, the raspberries are quickly cooled back to one to two degrees Celsius. Only after that, the raspberries are sorted, packed and weighed. Throughout Europe, there is no such plantation that can cool raspberries down as quickly after picking as this one. We control the whole process from planting to delivering to the customer and can guarantee the quality.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM):
We apply biological breeding as much as possible. Only in the case that there is something that cannot be resolved biologically then and only then we use the artificial resources. In October, we did the first laboratory test of the fruits of raspberries in Munich with the result: first class completely clean from pesticides. The weeds that grow between rows of raspberries, we also clean mechanically and manually without any use of artificial means. For the pollination of raspberry plants, we have +/- 1,000,000 bees flying around.
In Bosnia, it’s not easy to get good quality machines. However, machines that are imported from Germany are usually old and inadequate. That’s why we purchased all the machines in the Netherlands and exported to Bosnia. We have our own machine park which includes: tractors, excavators, aggregates, refrigerators, trailers, 4WD jeeps, lawn mowers, plows, mills, packaging lines, etc.
We have our own cold storage truck with trailer. In the cold storage truck the temperature of raspberries is kept from one to two degrees Celsius from the plantation to the distribution center. The temperature in the cold storage truck as well as the movement of the tuck is monitored by Internet, which means that we have the whole process under our control from planting to delivering; therefore, we can guarantee the highest quality.
In order to sell the products to supermarkets it is necessary to have the certain certificates. We are certified for Global Gap (how do you deal with the environment), GRASP (workers’ rights) and HACCP (food quality control). These are the International certificates that are not easy to get. The German TÜV Nord has carried out the audit, which included a high expenses and lot of paperwork. Now with all necessary certificates, our raspberry is ready for the western supermarkets.
The whole sale is completely directed to the main agent in Germany. This agent has an annual turnover of € 150 million and is specialized for the international sales of raspberries. A day before we learn to what country we have to deliver the raspberries the next day, which is of course determined by the highest selling price. The raspberries are packed in 125 grams punnets, labeled, and put in the cardboard box, where each box contains 12 punnets. The raspberries that are packed this way are ready for sale. We have our own name, Super Berries, a company style and its own website: www.super-berries.eu
The Super Berries project is fully supported by the local and national government. Originally, they have helped to find the right place for the plantation and still helping in acquiring the necessary permits, for example, with the energy suppliers. There is direct contact with the minister. The project has been on Bosnian television twice this year.