EastFruit periodically publishes an analysis of the Georgian strawberry market, where local producers frequently comment about the price competition with Turkish strawberries and its negative effects on local production, at the same time, we observe the developments in the market, although big investments mostly are made in controlled environment production rather than open field production. Cooperative Madlieri is the newcomer of the 2023 season. EastFruit spoke with the head of the cooperative, Giorgi Tavadze, about the specifics of the strawberry business and the niche they’ve chosen.
Cooperative Madlieri plans to produce 300 tons of strawberries in 2023 in a newly constructed greenhouse in the Shida Kartli region. According to Tavadze, this season, the aim is to make premium quality strawberries available to Georgian consumers on the supermarket shelves throughout the year. The total investment of the project is 2 million GEL ($804,910), of which 850,000 GEL ($342,087) is taken within the preferential agro credit program.
It is a hydrophonics greenhouse with hanging gutters developed and assembled in Georgia. The system is mechanized, which makes it possible to adjust the height of individual rows to pick berries or carry out other necessary operations. According to the head of the cooperative, Giorgi Tavadze, the system designed by them is an improved version of the existing gutter systems. The original system allows to receive five times more berries per hectare compared to open field production. In the greenhouse of 5700 square meters, 152,000 strawberry plants are placed. Although this is only one module, according to Tavadze, it is planned to increase production up to ten modules in the next three years.
The Californian strawberry variety Cabrillo was selected for the production, which can produce 3.5 kilograms of berries per plant, although the cooperative expects to harvest up to 2 kilograms.
Natural gas is used for heating in the greenhouse, although the heating system is also experimental. According to Tavadze, to get 50-70% of the estimated maximum harvest in the coldest months, it is enough to warm up only the plant’s root system up to 10 degrees Celsius. For this purpose, an irrigation pipe system was installed in the greenhouse, which warms the roots with water. The plant needs heating only from January to mid-April. In 2023, the expenditure on heating amounted to 30,000 GEL ($12,074).
Source: Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia
Now the cooperative supplies local packaging company “Georgian Agro Product,” which sells berries under the brand name Planta in supermarket chains, but in May, the cooperative will produce more than one ton of berries per day and plans to supply supermarkets directly.
For more information: east-fruit.com