Event looks at evolution of the blueberry category and highlights the success of Ozblu Magica in Peru

The annual Ozblu Global Grower Conference brought more than 200 growers, industry experts, customers, staff and suppliers to South Africa on 6-7 June, centred around the theme of ’growing together’.

Ozblu Grower Conference 2024

The keynote address was delivered by Cindy van Rijswick, global strategist at 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.

Van Rijswick emphasised the rising standards within the blueberry industry, noting that while demand remained strong, the need for quality and consistency would 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 van Rijswick’s observation that AI had 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 tonne per hectare.

The success in Peru was attributed specifically to the benchmark variety – Ozblu Magica – which is ”setting a high bar in the industry in terms of yield, price, shelf-life and flavour”, United Exports noted.

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.

“We believe in following the data and using it to precisely connect our Ozblu varieties, growers, and consumers,” said Roger Horak, executive chairman and founder of United Exports.

”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.”