A BLUEBERRY orchard planted tentatively in the Bundaberg region has thrived in its first season, far away from the popular fruit's traditional New South Wales heartland.
National fruit and vegetable producer Perfection Fresh has finished harvesting its first crop of blueberries from a 6ha operation planted on a former mango farm at Branyan.
We don't want to give too much away but suffice to say the yield was very encouraging.
The company plans to expand the farm to include 20ha in full production in the next year.
Perfection Fresh's Queensland value-add manager Allan Mahoney said the company's first harvest of Bundaberg blueberries had exceeded all expectations.
"We don't want to give too much away but suffice to say the yield was very encouraging," he said.
"Each tree produced about one-and-a-half kilograms which was more than we had expected."
The fruit, which is easily affected by heat and sun, is expensive and fickle, with a harvest season spanning from late October to late December in NSW.
The Perfection Fresh property is believed to be only the second blueberry farm to begin in Bundaberg and follows the Abbotsleigh Citrus venture near Gin Gin.
Mr Mahoney said the company aimed to extend the blueberry season in Australia and give consumers a wider window to enjoy the fruit.
"We're trying to provide people with a product they can't always get," he said.
"We want to open up that window, so people can enjoy fruit grown in Australia all year round."
Perfection Fresh is using a special variety, grown with success in Spain, which suits Bundaberg's climate and soil type.
The berries are grown under plastic tunnels that create a stable environment and shield the fruit from harmful UV rays.
Mr Mahoney said blueberry producers from other growing regions in Australia were shocked by the quantity and quality of the fruit produced by the young trees.
"There are people that have said to us 'this will never work, you're wasting your life'," he said.
"A lot of people have been sceptical, so we're really pleased with the success of the first harvest."
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