Climate change is making itself felt as the amount of rain that used to fall during several weeks is now falling in just one day. In addition, lovely days alternate with bad weather days with strong winds and even tornadoes.
"Of course this affects cultivation and production. Around a month ago, heavy cloudbursts and strong winds damaged a lot of greenhouses, however we were lucky compared to some other companies," explains Siro Ricci from Az. Agr. Ricci Siro e Figli, specializing in aromatic herbs and basil and owner of the OrtoRicci brand.
"We employ integrated control techniques and produce around 20 aromatic plant varieties (20 hectares in total, 10 covered and 10 uncovered) and mainly basil (soil-less on 2 hectares) with the floating or subirrigated mat systems. Glass and steel greenhouses are fully automated and computerized. We also produce salad and vegetables depending on the season, but they are niche production. We mainly grow green basil, but there are also other varieties (licorice, lemon, cinnamon) and red basil destined to the gourmet segment."
Our products can also be found in retail chains. "We are also testing shipments abroad, mainly to Great Britain. If feedback is positive, we might start exporting too. European demand is high, as the Netherlands and Germany both got in touch. Aromatic herbs are delicate to transport. We are currently testing a polystyrene pack that can protect the plants from cold temperatures as well as a double cardboard that ensures suitable humidity levels."
Floating system and subirrigation
A floating system is a cultivation technique that sees plants sowed in a sterile soil placed in floating supports that rest in waterproofed tanks containing water and nutrients. "Water consumption is low and there is no dispersion of the fertilized water in the soil. In addition, sanitary quality is excellent."
The same advantages can be obtained with subirrigation. "Plants are sown in a cube of sterile soil and placed on a mat subirrigated with nutrients. Excess water is reused for other crops."
More than just tradition
"Coriander, chervil and chives are increasingly popular. What is more, consumers are more aware about how to use aromatic herbs. This is due partly to immigrants and partly to the will of the locals to discover new flavors. Although still a minor segment, its importance is growing."
According to Ricci, the demand for sage, rosemary, bay leaves and parsley will increase in the period leading up to Christmas. "These herbs are used to season fish and roasts. It has always been the case during this period, as people tend to consume more and cook with family and friends."
"Plants sell well throughout the year, with a drop only in autumn. Consumption peaks in spring and summer as well. It is common knowledge that bad weather makes people buy less."
"In January, we will introduce entirely biodegradable trays. The film and label are eco-friendly as well."
"We are doing what we can to respect the environment. We are currently using mainly flowpacks and will continue to do so as they adapt well to the idea of eco-friendly products."