June 17, 2024

OZblu® Global Grower Conference 2024 in Franschhoek Highlights Innovation and Social Impact

OZblu® Global Grower Conference

The annual OZblu® Global Grower Conference, held in Franschhoek, has become a cornerstone event for many OZblu® blueberry growers worldwide, and this year’s conference was the largest and most impactful since its inception in 2017. More than 200 growers, industry experts, customers, staff and suppliers attended the event on 6 and 7 June 2024, which featured 28 presentations over two days, centred around the theme of “Growing Together”.

The keynote address was delivered by Cindy van Rijswick, Global Strategist from Rabobank, who spoke about the evolution of the blueberry category. She highlighted the potential for increased blueberry consumption due to its convenience and versatility, and the future possibility of mechanised harvesting in developed countries, which could change the sector and keep prices more affordable.

OZblu® Global Grower Conference

Van Rijswick emphasised the rising standards within the blueberry industry, noting that while demand remains strong, the need for quality and consistency will be a requirement, with proprietary varieties gaining market share. She discussed the concept of ‘glocalisation’ – companies becoming more global with a local presence – and the ongoing consolidation across the supply chain.

Furthering Cindy’s observation that AI has entered the sector in an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary way, Marco Snikkers of One Third later discussed the role of AI in optimising the supply chain and reducing waste. Marek Fisher of West Blu farm in Australia shared insights on machine harvesting for fresh, highlighting its unique potential in developed countries close to the consumption market.

In Peru, over the past season, OZblu® outperformed the average Peruvian blueberry orchard yield by 2.9 times, despite the challenges posed by the El Niño phenomenon, being in excess of 36 tonnes per hectare. The success in Peru can be attributed specifically to the benchmark variety – OZblu® Magica, a variety that is setting a high bar in the industry in terms of yield, price, shelf-life, and flavour.

United Exports exports OZblu® blueberries from South Africa and has a large production footprint not only in South Africa but also in other countries around the world, including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Australia, the US, Peru, and Mexico. This extensive production network underscores the global reach and influence of the OZblu® brand.

And, the OZblu® brand continues to push for excellence. The conference’s focused agenda, led by United Exports leaders, explored how to execute the OZblu® Recipe with greater precision by empowering people with process and knowledge.

Roger Horak, Executive Chairman and Founder of United Exports, stated, “We believe in following the data and using it to precisely connect our OZblu® varieties, growers, and consumers. Some say we are more agri-tech than agricultural, but at the end of the day, we are all growers with a great passion for getting the best out of every single berry we grow. And, we are all growing together.”

An inspiring aspect of the conference was its commitment to social responsibility. Each delegate was provided with a fleece blanket for use during the event. Continuing a cherished tradition, these 100 blankets were subsequently donated to SA Harvest, a charity that will distribute them to disadvantaged communities and support disaster relief efforts in South Africa, emphasizing the conference’s role in providing tangible warmth and support to those in need.

After the conference, the focused agenda and insightful presentations combined with a genuine commitment to social responsibility underscored the overarching theme of ‘Growing Together’, reflecting both in agricultural innovation and in making a positive impact on communities.