Specially designed polytunnels and fruit breeding have enabled a local farm to extend its picking season from six weeks to five months.
And the success story which is East Seaton Farm has created stability for a workforce of between 450 and 500, comprising 350 to 400 in the fields and another 100 in the packing house.
Amazingly, the farm produces some 1,500 tonnes of soft fruit annually, comprising about 50 tonnes of blueberries, 70 tonnes of blackberries, 180 to 200 tonnes of raspberries and about 1,200 tonnes of strawberries.
John Gray, commercial director of Angus Soft Fruits, explained: “The industry has changed a lot over the last 15 or so years. In my youth we picked fruit for six weeks whereas now we will pick for five months. Obviously there has been a lot of changes in that period, but the biggest would be the use of polytunnels.
“We also have our own breeding programme and that is aimed at producing varieties which crop for a longer period of time.
“We have several varieties of strawberries which we have bred ourselves which will crop from early May through until early November.
“We have also extended the raspberry season. We will now pick raspberries from the end of May to the end of September.”
Mr Gray said that at East Seaton they also grow blackberries and blueberries to which the same principles have been applied to extend the growing and picking season.
Angus Soft Fruits supply most of the major supermarkets throughout the UK, including Tesco, Sainsbury, Morrison, The Cooperative, Asda and Aldi. Mr Gray stated: “In Scotland, we produce about one-third of UK berries which means that twice as much fruit goes out of Scotland as stays in it. Scotland is a net exporter into the rest of the UK.”