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Ever considered to grow Kiwiberries?

For a number of years now, the kiwiberry is being sold in Europe. Production is still low, but is growing steadily every year.

Production in European countries
Filip Debersaques of Ghent University has researched the production of kiwiberry since 2007. He is also chairman of the European kiwiberry workgroup. “Several years ago, various countries took up production of the kiwiberry. Belgium and the Netherlands are the frontrunners in Europe. Outside Europe, the kiwiberry is mainly grown in New Zealand, Chile, America and China.”

Openfield kiwiberry.

Many varieties
There are many different kiwiberry varieties, and on the testing ground at the university, there are already about 100: 50 named varieties, and the same amount of new crosses. “In Poland, at the University of Warsaw, several new varieties are also crossed. One of the most prominent ones is Bingo.” The cultivation of hardy kiwis is very labour intensive. “It’s not like an apple or pear tree you look at a few times a year. With hardy kiwis, you can’t afford not to walk around the plantation for a week during the growing season. Especially in the first years, growers need to keep a close eye on everything, to establish a firm plant architecture. The harvest is also a lot of work. A maximum of ten kilos per hour can be picked, and the rate of attrition is high. In addition, it takes several years for a grower to start making money with it.” So regularly there are growers who call it quits.

“There are several challenges. The soil shouldn’t be too heavy, because that doesn’t work. The second bottleneck is spring frost. The flowering bud needs to be protected from as early as March. In those months, there can still be quite a bit of frost. In addition, irrigation isn’t possible at all times and places, so some growers had to stop after repeated heavy frost periods.” kiwiberries are almost exclusively grown outside. “There is one self-pollinating variety that can be grown in the greenhouse, but it quickly becomes too warm. And of course it’s pretty expensive. Growers who opt for this product, often have a passion for the kiwiberry. And of course they do get something in return: a profitable price.”

Kiwiberries in a greenhouse.

The hardy kiwi is a very healthy product. The amount of vitamin C is very high, and comparable to the regular kiwi, but the amount of antioxidants is even higher, because people also consume the skin. Over the years, in addition to the production, demand for hardy kiwi has also increased. Doesn’t demand surpass supply yet? Filip: “Fortunately, demand for a healthy and handy snack like the hardy kiwi is high. That’s a good thing. I think it will stay that way too. One advantage is that the volume increase is slow, which means the market can also gradually adapt.”
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