“From a long-standing family business to organic innovators. This is the success story of the Montella Bio company, the first in Caserta to convert to the cultivation of organic strawberries.
“After almost 80 years of activity, in 2005 my brother and I gave a change to our business by converting part of the land into organic – explains Michele Montella, owner of the homonymous company to Italiafruit News – today all the company areas, equal to 56 hectares of greenhouses, they can count on certification. Furthermore, in 2018 we invested in a new plant that guarantees us high technological and sustainability standards “.
With an annual production of about twenty thousand quintals of strawberries, Montella Bio is always committed to experimenting with new varieties: to date the main ones are Sabrina, Melissa and Parthenope.
“Already in mid-February we are ready with the campaign and then continue until mid-May or early July – emphasizes the entrepreneur – Once the fresh product is finished, we process it for industry or freeze it for processing companies”.
And he continues: “The transplants began in October with a mild climate full of light which contributed to the good formation of the plants. We hope to be able to obtain a good production both in terms of quantity and quality: compared to 2020 we will have 20-30% more product ”.
The Montella Bio strawberries are partly conferred to the Bia Consortium, while 55% of the turnover is represented by foreign trade. “We already sell with Germany, Austria, Denmark and a little in France – comments the owner – and we are also opening up to Eastern markets”.
The meeting with Gianluca Schiassi, director of the Bia Consortium was fundamental for the company’s growth. “From the very beginning Schiassi saw us very far, bringing together the efforts of farmers to sell to large-scale distribution – highlights Montella – Thanks to the capacity for innovation and continuous research, in recent years the reality has grown a lot. Until last year I was just a reseller, while today I became a partner. The company-consortium relationship is as transparent as possible and we are very satisfied – he adds – Bia always guarantees the best price to enhance our products: quotations are managed weekly directly with customers and only the costs necessary for product management are withheld ” .
The strawberry harvest is done in cardboard baskets from 300 to 500 grams and subsequently the fruits are no longer handled. The baskets enter the plant where they are refrigerated at 5 degrees and are then packaged with a Flowpack film on which the brand label is also affixed. “In recent years we have chosen cardboard for our packaging because it is a sustainable material that fits perfectly with our organic philosophy – emphasizes the producer – Above all our foreign customers, Germany in particular, require us to use less plastic. It was already our intention to reduce non-recyclable packaging and today we have reached 85% use of cardboard. But the whole company is increasingly green: we produce energy from photovoltaic panels, recover water from greenhouses to reuse it for irrigation and we have installed a drip irrigation system that limits waste. Organic must be perfectly linked to a sustainable perspective, otherwise it is useless to talk about organic “.
The all-round sustainability in which the company believes is also found in the collaborators, who are trained with specific courses. “If treated well, the plants give us the right fruits and we do the same with our staff. We give our collaborators to follow courses for hygiene, posture and to get used to the temperatures of greenhouses and cold rooms “.
Particular attention is paid to the harvest: “For this phase we rely on women because they have a particular wrist game that allows you to harvest the fruits without tearing them and therefore without leaving lesions on the plant. They are also more careful about placing fruit of the same size in the basket. The latter is a fundamental step at the time of purchase, considering that the only sense used is sight: the more uniform the baskets are, the more they strike consumers “.
Didactics and projects for the future
The creation of a direct sales point at the company and a processing laboratory for jams and frozen products is expected shortly. Montella Bio also winks at the new generations through the creation of an organic teaching plan. “It is essential to make our type of production understood – specifies the entrepreneur – and we do it by bringing the children to the company, explaining to them the use of insects and mechanical activities, in addition to the strong use of labor, responsible for an increase in costs of 30-40% “.
The company has no shortage of plans for the future. “We are proposing ourselves to an important association, of which I still do not mention the name, for a project that guarantees the work ethic – concludes Montella – at the moment among our collaborators, we already count 35 boys from Mali and Burkina Faso and soon we hope to have to hire new ones, in collaboration with this association “.
Copyright 2021 Italiafruit News