"The main problems we are having to deal with this year when it comes to fresh-cut products include the higher production costs, especially after having established a price beforehand, which unfortunately does not take their increase into consideration, and the lack of labor," reports Angelo Giuliano from Azienda agricola Sante Giuliano in Montecorvino Pugliano (Salerno).
"Within such a context, the best strategy was to reduce production costs, and, to do so, we have introduced innovations into our production system. Although it is difficult, we are trying to perform a more superficial soil processing. This way, we ensure increased soil fertility without depriving it of microelements and save fuel. In addition, we are thinking about increasing the number of photovoltaic panels to reach energy self-sufficiency and increase their efficiency. The only way to obtain a margin nowadays is to save on fuel and electricity."
Azienda Agricola Giuliano Sante, which was set up in 1992 in the heart of the Sele plain, boasts a long relationship with agriculture, as Giuliano's family used to produce fruit plants. Sante immediately saw an opportunity in the cultivation of rocket in greenhouses and was among the first to produce it in the area together with Tino Bellina.
The company currently covers 30 hectares in the Montecorvino Pugliano municipality. It specializes in the production of various products, including both baby leaves and adult plants, destined for the fresh-cut segment under leading brands in Europe.
Azienda Giuliano grows baby leaves such as green lettuce, spinach, rocket, chicory, and beet, with a total annual production of approximately 2500 tons. In the summer, it rotates the crops and solarizes the land not to impoverish the soil and to disinfect it. Three years ago, it started cultivating iceberg lettuce, round radicchio, and smooth and curly escarole for 3/4 months a year.
"The lack of labor is a problem that has been going on for some time, but it is getting worse year after year. Although we have increased the daily pay, we still have not managed to find anyone willing to work. We have introduced electric harvesters, but we still need skilled personnel to use them. The future of the sector is at stake."
"Another problem is climate change. This year, the summer temperatures lasted well into October, so much so that the produce kept growing and making it more difficult to control harmful pathogens. Now we expect there will be less produce with the lower temperatures and shorter days."
The produce is constantly analyzed during harvesting to guarantee its health to final consumers.
"We promote Italian agriculture from southern Italy, limiting the use of plant protection products and using natural antagonists and beneficial microorganisms for biological and integrated control. We also use biodigestate to guarantee constant soil fertility. This way, there was no productive fallacy during cultivation. This strategy is also helping us limit the use of chemical fertilizers."
All company products hold the following certifications: GlobalGAP, Grasp, LEAF Marque, and SQNPI. Rocket also boasts the PGI mark.
"In the future, we are looking to extend the company, and we would like to start commercializing our products under our own brand."