Tue, 31 Jan 2023

WELLINGTON, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Spray-free strawberries will be enjoyed by New Zealanders, with a high-tech new system aimed to extend the fruit's short season.

The spray-free strawberries will be grown through a high-tech new system almost all year round through a government-backed pilot project based in Foxton of the North Island, Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said on Tuesday.

"We're focused on innovations that lift the sustainability and productivity of our food and fiber sector and this project moves us along that path," O'Connor said.

"Strawberries are a staple in the Kiwi diet in summer, but many would agree that our strawberry season is all too short," he said, adding the most cost-effective method has been identified to grow high-yielding, out-of-season strawberries using a controlled environment growing system, partnering with companies.

The new indoor hydroponic system recycles water and uses mobile vertical racks and pulsing light, so it doesn't require the pesticides or herbicides that are usually an essential part of large-scale strawberry production, said the minister.

"While controlled environment growing systems are already being used around the world, this is the first of its kind in New Zealand," he said, adding it is likely one of the first examples globally of growing strawberries this way.

The project will aim to produce fruit with an equivalent taste, look, and size to peak-season strawberries grown locally and conventionally, O'Connor said, adding it has the potential to benefit the horticulture industry in New Zealand, both environmentally and economically.

Successful adoption of the technology could also create more skilled technical jobs that are not season dependent, he added.

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