Named the honeyberry, the fruit is packed full of healthy compounds and suited to cold climates. It was therefore one of the topics of discussion at the Scottish Society for Crop Research and Bulrush Horticulture Soft Fruit Information Day, held on February 18 (2016) in Inchture, Perthshire.
Grower Stewart Arbuckle, from Dundee-based soft fruit firm PA Arbuckle & Sons, has planted Scotland's first orchard of honeyberries. He said the berry is very easy to grow and offers the added benefit of being the first one to fruit in the season – about 10 to 14 days earlier than local native strawberries.
LoveHoneyberry Solutions consultant Logie Cassells, who also spoke at the event, added: "We are pushing for more growers to plant them this year, as Scotland’s climate is perfect for them.
An aim of 5,000 acres over the next 10 years is ambitious, but achievable. Honeyberry orchards can achieve revenues from £10,000 to £25,000 an acre, depending on your aims, passion and drive."
Rex Brennan, soft fruit breeder at the James Hutton Institute, said researchers are collaborating with P.A. Arbuckle & Sons in the propagation of honeyberries and are open to explore new types of soft fruits and their nutritional and commercial possibilities.
"Honeyberries originate from northern Asia, notably Siberia, and the blue-coloured fruit is of increasing interest due to its very desirable qualities, including very high levels of anthocyanin pigments. This has led to commercial production in places such as Canada and now the UK."
Alison Dolan, secretary of the SSCR soft fruit subcommittee, commented: "As market trends evolve and diversify, the Society is glad to present new alternatives to soft fruit growers and industry. We welcome this presentation about the advantages of honeyberries and hope it will be useful for our members."
In addition to SSCR, Bulrush Horticulture and the James Hutton Group, trade exhibitors at the soft fruit conference included Agralan Ltd, Brinkman UK Ltd, Clydesdale Trading Society, Fargro Ltd, LoveHoneyberry, Omex Agriculture, Ripple Aquaplast and XL Horticulture.