Publicity and public relations may not seem like the obvious beginnings to a career in agriculture. However, for Nuria Alvarez of Zamora from Spain, they have proven a perfect fit. Having taken the skills that she learned during her studies and the experience she has gained whilst working in marketing back to her local area, she has developed an innovative new product for her family's farm.
Agroberry, her company, focuses on blackberries and blackberry products. The first products that Nuria began selling was fresh fruit. Since then she has also developed a range of processed products such as jams, honey and – coming soon – blackberry wine.
Nuria may have had the marketing knowledge and a great idea but it is not just business inspiration that is needed to make a success of a new agricultural enterprise. Careful analysis of the local conditions and a true understanding of the land that you intend to farm are also key to success. It was no accident that blackberries are ideally suited to the local area and her family farms particular set of resources, as she had meticulously researched the ideal crop for her business.
Despite being a new endeavour, traditional knowledge also had a key role to play and Nuria was keen to involve the previous generation in her project using her father’s built-up expertise to help with the preparatory work needed for the new crops. Together they have planted 1,800 plants since the beginning of the project in 2015. The company expect that the planned 4,500 plants will eventually produce 4 kg of fruit a season.
Currently the blackberries are not certified as organic because it would not be economically feasible to go through the certification process before all the plants are in the ground. However, the long-term plan is to apply for organic status. For this reason, the farm is already adopting many of the methods that will be needed if they are to achieve this status and use no pesticides or herbicides on their blackberry fields.
The farm is environmentally friendly, with a drip irrigation system meaning that only 2 L of water are needed for each plant. This is particularly important in the province of Zamora, where water is scarce. Furthermore, this irrigation system is powered entirely by renewable energy. Additionally, as they are cultivated outside, there is no need any artificial grow lighting.
Not only has the farm provided a career for Nuria, but it also provides four part time positions and it is likely that the farm will need another full time employee once they enter full production. However, it is not just their agricultural work that will benefit the local economy, as Nuria intends to open up a new income stream through Agri-tourism. This is in order to take advantage of the interest in the Visigoth Church of San Pedro de la Nave: One of Spain’s oldest churches, located just a few kilometers away.
Agroberry is an inspirational project because of how it has combined agricultural innovation, growing a new environmentally compatible product in an area without a history of blackberry cultivation, with impressive marketing skills. The company had found multiple ways to sell and develop their products alongside exploring new income streams. All of this had made Agroberry a great example of how European rural development funds can be used to increase competitiveness in the countryside.