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Meet the Growers - OTM Summer

Undercover Berries -
In the heart of New Zealand, a horticultural evolution has been not-so-quietly unfurling beneath the watchful gaze of chefs and growers alike.

The art of cultivating berries has taken a transformative leap with growers like the UnderCover Berry Group harnessing innovation to extend the season and enhance the flavour of chefs’ favourite berry selections. It starts under state-of-the-art polytunnels that protect these delicate fruits from the unpredictable whims of the weather. They protect the workers too, an added bonus!


New Zealand's unique climate offers a range of geographical growing regions, from the subtropical warmth of Northland to the crisp chill of Central Otago but it’s in the mighty Waikato that berries thrive from October to June comfortably. It’s not even unheard of to see super-sweet early strawberries on the shelves in September.


It’s by harnessing the power of polytunnels, growers like Kaipaki Berries can create an ideal micro-climate and provide their 16ha of berries with protection from the weather. While this is the primary tool for extending the growing season it also aids in protecting and creating a welcoming environment for pollinators and insects, a crucial part of the growing process.


The use of tunnels to grow hydroponically means it’s better for the environment greatly reducing water and the use of added nutrients. The science allows precise delivery of just the right amount of water and nutrients to get the best quality berries. Strawberries are grown on tables which allow pickers to easily see and access the berries and also helps to control pests which often are often a problem for berries grown on the ground.

It’s by harnessing the power of polytunnels, growers like Kaipaki Berries can create an ideal micro-climate and provide their 16ha of berries with protection from the weather. While this is the primary tool for extending the growing season it also aids in protecting and creating a welcoming environment for pollinators and insects, a crucial part of the growing process.


Kaipaki also use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) System to focus on berry health by closely monitoring the type of insects and health of the berries, down to combatting pests by releasing beneficial insects for a natural helping hand.


Traditionally, berries thrived under the open sky, basking in the sun and rain. However, as the climate's unpredictability has become more apparent, a transition to growing berries under cover emerged as a solution to ensure a consistent supply and reduce the risks tied to weather changes.


The shift to undercover crops not only secures supply but also heralds a promising future for the berry category. The innovations driven by this transition open doors to longer, flavourful production. First, the controlled environment safeguards against abrupt temperature fluctuations, frost, and heavy rains, which can spell disaster for delicate

berries. Second, it extends the berry season, delighting both chefs and consumers with a more extended availability of these delectable fruits. Lastly, it grants growers a level of predictability that's invaluable for planning and resource allocation.


Growers and scientists are working together for maximum flavour, yield and quality. For chefs, this means endless inspiration from super-sized blueberries to reliable tart and bright raspberries. Chefs (and consumers) anticipate berries that burst with flavour, colour, and freshness, while growers aspire for varieties that are robust, disease-resistant, and yield well. Firstly, embrace fresh produce across a longer season and in more unique ways, especially by staying connected to the work that growers are doing to bring new products to market. Kaipaki Berries are currently focused on strawberries and raspberries but will soon be bringing blackberries to market with a December to June season.


The berry season in New Zealand is not just a fleeting culinary delight; it's also a valuable opportunity for chefs to leverage the abundance of berries during their peak season.


Build strong relationships with local berry growers and suppliers so you can plan for when the product will be available, any new releases you can utilise in menu planning and thinking ahead.

To extend the berry season beyond peak, get back to preserving. Creating jams, jellies, compotes, and berry-infused syrups captures vibrant flavour for future use while staying local and house made. Experiment with new recipes, sweet and savoury flavour combinations,

and culinary techniques to craft something memorable to celebrate the season. By cultivating an awareness of the ebb and flow of the seasons, menus can celebrate seasonal availability. This approach actually encourages guests to get connected with the local food system.






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