Igor Knyazevych, the head of Eco Berry, shared the secret of his farm’s success and told where it all began. The idea of creating a berry farm came to us a long time ago. We knew exactly that we wanted and would grow only pure and organic products. We strived to ensure that our production was of maximum benefit to both people and the environment. The path from dream to realization lasted three years and we successfully registered our business on May 5, 2017 under the name FE “Eco Berry”.
Today FE “Eco Berry” covers an area of 300 hectares, of which 130 hectares are already planted with a variety of berries and fruits.
Great emphasis is placed on garden strawberries, as well as summer and autumn raspberries. The largest area of the farm is allocated for these crops.
How were the plots established?
– It all starts with a laboratory analysis of the soil. Laboratory analysis of the soil tells us whether it is possible to grow this crop on this plot of land. First of all, soil samples are taken and sent to the laboratory. They are then investigated and a decision is made on how deep the groundwater is or whether it is deep enough to plant berries such as raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. If physicists have concluded that groundwater is at a depth of (1.5-2 m), then (respectively) permission is obtained that crops can be planted in these areas.
Mr. Igor, tell us how the process develops further?
– The next step is to analyze the soil for acidity. If you take, for example, garden strawberries, the best conditions for
strawberries are when the soil acidity is from 5.5 to 6.5. If the acidity of the soil is less than pH 5.5 (from 3 to 4), then
such soils are not suitable for planting and growing garden strawberries, but this acidity is optimal for blueberries. The
acidity of our soil for crops such as raspberries, blackberries and strawberries varies in the pH range of 5.5 -7.0.
Has it been possible to find something worthy and noteworthy on the Ukrainian market?
– Yes, definitely! We carefully studied the Ukrainian market and came to the conclusion that we can safely rely on a solid reputation with many years of experience of Rosetta Agro and Frutek seed plots. To make our choice, we also had to immerse ourselves in the question of where and to which farms these seed plots sold their seedlings. This allowed us to make a detour of these farms. Investigate them and see how the planting material behaves from a particular seed plot. We spent years choosing a seed plot, because we also paid attention to how the plants feel in the second, or even in the fifth year of planting. All this did not happen in vain, because after that we made our most important decision, in which seed plot to buy our planting material.
What was your next step?
– The next step after purchasing quality planting material is to plant it. If (for example) we talk about garden strawberries, then first an intermediate crop should be sown on the plot. It can be rapeseed or mustard. In other words, shelter plant. To put it simply, this is such a preliminary soil treatment before planting the main plant. Our soil has been prepared since autumn. It was enriched with micro – and macronutrients. In autumn we carried out deep soil loosening,
and in spring – disking, cultivation, milling, preparing seedbeds, which were covered with a special film. The width of the bed is 60 cm and the height is 25 cm. After that, we planted plants by hand on this bed.
Didn’t you think that plants wouldn't take root for some reason?
– No, because all the seedlings purchased in seed plots had a closed root system. So what does it mean?!
That the probability of survival is almost 100%. Also, the quality of growth is significantly increased compared to the open root system. All plants that are planted in our farm are planted under irrigation. Each plant at the time of drought or lack of water receives watering. We have special sensors that monitor the plant's moisture supply, and as soon as the sensor indicates that there is not enough moisture, we make sure to water them. We also saturate the soil before planting seedlings with micro – and macronutrients. In particular, if we are talking about an intermediate crop, it is organic
residues. When we disk it, we enrich the soil with organic matter. In autumn, we apply additional mineral fertilizers to enrich the nutrient content of the soil. Accordingly, throughout the season we have the opportunity to introduce such elements as boron, zinc. We add all these microelements directly to the droplet. Dissolve them in water and it already contains all these trace elements.
What else plays an important role on the farm?
– In order to choose the right scheme for planting seedlings, you need to take into account what technique will be used in the future to cultivate this crop. If we talk about our farm, we use small tractors for processing. Based on this, we decided that our space between rows will be 3 m. If you use a wider technique, the row spacing can be even 4 m.
How else do you grow berries?
-Rd currants, black currants and remontant raspberries are grown organically. For these crops, only organic fertilizers are
used before planting. Before transplanting we carry out spraying and protection against diseases and pests. We use only
products that are allowed by Organic Standard.
What exactly are you growing at the moment?
– Now we are planting blueberries. Special conditions are also required to grow it properly. It requires optimal soil acidity 4-4.5 pH. This plant lives only because of this, because its root system has bacteria that can live only with such acidity of the soil. If the acidity is higher, this crop will not grow, but will feel bad and will not bear fruit. For blueberries you need to prepare a special peat mixture. Then we plant it in this mixture. We use original protection products that are approved for use in Ukraine. We buy these products from people who work directly with manufacturers.
Igor, you have a huge amount of work behind you! How does your “Eco Berry” feel today?
– Today FE “Eco Berry” is focused on both the local market and the European ones. We have raised the quality of our berries as much as possible in order to present them with dignity on the European market.
In particular, to achieve such a high level, we formed our production and processing directly on the field, because we immediately work with fresh berries, after harvesting them. Therefore, we have reduced to a minimum the time spent from product collection to its processing. That is, fresh berries from the field are sent immediately for processing. Our factory is equipped with highly professional and modern equipment from world manufacturers. We guarantee reliable processing, freezing, sorting and packaging of products directly on our field, because we have involved the leaders among equipment manufacturers in these processes: OctoFrost, TOMRA (BLIZZARD), UNIMASZ. Also, since 2020, we have introduced IQF shock freezing in the production of FE “Eco Berry” (fluidized shock freezing in the OctoFrost tunnel) of cultivated and wild berries, fruits and vegetables.
Now we can offer our customers a quality product of European level. Our farm is certified, so we have the opportunity to grow organic berries in accordance with the requirements of the Organic Standart certificate. In particular, we will soon receive such certificates as: HACCP, FSSC 22000. To obtain these Certificates, we go through a very complex and time-consuming process. We do not stop improving and always strive to satisfy even the most demanding customers!