The company is a leader in the kiwi sector with its brands KingFruit, KingKiwi, SweetKiwi and GoldKiwi, as well as in Ceradini B&C, nursery production and kiwi trade. It sells the kiwis cultivated on its 90 hectares of plantations (it owned 10 in 1997) and those of 150 associated producers, shipping in Italy and overseas, especially in China, where they were one of the first to arrive, as well as in South Korea, where it is the only Italian company in the market. In 2011, the year in which the Psa arrived in Italy, the idea to diversify the production was perceived as a must. "We needed to find a product that we could grow and offer the highest quality, as we were accustomed to that with our Kiwis," explained Massimo Ceradini to FreshPlaza. In the end, the choice fell on mountain strawberries, grown on the open ground.
In 2012, greenhouses were implemented in Velo Veronese. At the time, 140,000 seedlings were planted and it was an instant success, so much so that the following year the production grew even more, with 220,000 cultivated plants. Also this year is the production is expected to increase: the first estimates point to about 200 tonnes. There are currently 300,000 seedlings of the Irma, Capri and San Andreas varieties in 4.5 hectares of greenhouses, spanning over 25 km of rows.
This increase in production volumes has made it necessary to find ad hoc solutions to build new roofs, as flat areas will soon be fully covered and it will become necessary to use the mountain slopes. "The covers follow the contours of the mountain," explains Andrea Bonetti, agronomist at Ceradini and technical head of the Strawberry project, "and to allow the heat to be released the plants have to be almost perpendicular. Moreover, each row has two lines, one above and one below: their position and the mountain's slope will ensure that the plants are always exposed to the sun."
This is just one of the thousand secrets behind the planting. The fertigation and division of the 4.5 hectares ensure an optimal and uniform growth of all plants. The excess irrigation water is recycled, and 5 large tanks make it possible to recover rainwater. Additional water can be extracted from 5 small wells located in a volcanic cone.
One of the water reservoirs.
Perhaps the flexibility of strawberries is their biggest advantage. "To achieve a constant production, part of our produce is cultivated on trellis and another in troughs. These are planted in Verona at the beginning of April, and then in May, with the arrival of the first warm days, they are carried to Velo Veronese. In this way, the production extends over the entire season, until the autumn. These days we are harvesting the first strawberries from the troughs, and around 20 June we should start with the trellis."
The result of all these procedures, in addition to a full traceability, "is an exceptional product, both in terms of appearance and flavour," says Massimo Ceradini. "Last year, prices reached above-average levels, of €14 for 2 kilos. It is a very exclusive product, which is why we compare it to a gem."
It is also worth noting how the strawberries are marketed. They are sold in 2 kilo boxes (eight 250 gram containers); the look is instantly recognisable, with a predominance of the colour red and personalised photographs. "I wanted something that would convey the uniqueness of these strawberries; to make them both captivating and sensual. Anyone looking at the box will know they are in front of something exceptional," says Massimo. Along with the box, there is a whole range of design tools for strawberry traders, including displays and banners, and there will also be bags, frisbees, and magnets.