FloraMaxx interview on CBC Radio One, Kelowna, BC, Canada on February 2, 2018
Chris: 7.47 Pacific time you are listening to CBC radio one. A West Kelowna company wants to take the guess work out of growing haskap berries commercially. Haskaps are native to Japan and Russia and were introduced to North America in the 1990’s. They look sort of like elongated blueberries. Floramaxx technologies has partnered with University of Saskatchewan to conduct field trials in four BC locations. The trials are to determine which variety of haskap grows best in various locations. Ashish Dave is the CEO of Floramaxx, a biotech company specializing in the production of starter plants and plant tissue culture technologies and is in our studio this morning. Good morning Ashish.
Ashish: Good morning Chris.
Chris: Why are you interested, first of all, in growing haskap berries? Just tell us a bit more about them.
Ashish: Actually haskap berries are fairly new to North America and especially to Canada and with special reference to BC. We don’t have much diversified food crops in terms of small fruits. Majority of these small fruits are grown in lower mainland, like blueberries, raspberries and you know, the other blackberries and other kind of fruits. So and Okanagan specially is majorly dependent on the larger fruits like apples, prunes, plums and all that. But in fact, the growers in Okanagan, they are not getting enough revenues out of their present fruit crops. So they are looking for diversification of newer small fruits, which are getting better revenues elsewhere in prairies and all that. So this is a new industry in BC and we got an opportunity to work with Dr. Bob Bors University of Sasketchewan haskap breeder and since we are a biotech company, we can bring up the production of the new varieties in short period of time, in short space. So we undertook the project with Dr. Bors and he selected ten advanced selections and he believes that these selections are fairly new in terms of they will do good in the given BC locations.
Chris: Right, and you have four BC locations I understand. Two of them are in Kelowna, can you tell us more about why you think the Okanagan might be a good place.
Ashish: Well we would like to focus Okanagan predominantly for developing a new berry industry. So we selected two locations, one in West Kelowna, which is a winery and they are interested in developing value added products of this haskap berry juice which can be wine or liqueur or other stuff. And the other location is in South-East Kelowna where it’s a major area for fruit production. So we focused two locations in Okanagan based on the altitude, the geography, the soil types, the terroir. And then the other two locations we selected in north of BC, because this berry is fairly adapted to colder climates of prairies.
Chris: Okay, now how long do you have to grow the berries at test sites to know whether to get a good idea of whether they’re working or not working?
Ashish: Commercially, the haskap berry comes into production after fourth year. You may start getting fruits after second year, but they are not commercially acceptable as a product. So third and fourth year is the crucial years where the berry comes into production and then that time, the fruit is of marketable value or you can make some value added products out of that, like juice or something else. So it is a four to five year crop into full maturity, that’s why we have undertaken the trials for first two years and we would like to continue for three more years to get a clear picture that how this new berry will perform in our BC different agro-climatic locations.
Chris: And for orchardists who are interested in diversifying as you say, how do they know that this isn’t a fad for example that will be gone in ten years? How do they know that if they tear out one crop and put haskap in, that it’s a viable product long-term?
Ashish: It is going to be a long-term crop because there is a fair bit of demand elsewhere in the world just because of the higher antioxidant values in the berry. And that’s where everybody is interested to harness the benefits of this berry. Japan is one of the major consumer of haskap berries and other than that, European markets are fairly open. So we expect that any berry grown in Canada or in BC, will have long-term business opportunities or marketing opportunities elsewhere in the world.
Chris: And from your perspective, what happens after four or five years, what’s your role in determining what happens next with these crops?
Ashish: Well once we complete the field trials, we would be able to bring more accurate information to growers and tell them this is what you should grow in a given location. Because haskap is a cross-pollinated crop and you have to have a pollinator variety along with the producing variety. So unless you take the field trials in BC, you cannot pin point which variety will do good in a given location. That’s our goal- to release the new varieties for the growers, with special reference to the horticultural industry in BC.
Chris: Ashish very interesting, thank you for coming in this morning sound so better.
Ashish: Thank you.
Chris: Ashish Dave is the CEO of Floramaxx technologies. You’re listening to daybreak on CBC radio 1.