In the article published in L’Eco di Bergamo Marco Conti analyses the situation of the agricultural sector and cites OP Isola Verde as an example of a company abreast of the times. Read the article.
In a recent study of the post-lockdown situation in the agricultural sector, the journalist Marco Conti analyses the current status, pointing out that agriculture has overcome 2020 with far less damaging effects when compared to most other industrial sectors.
During the critical period of Covid-19 in the Bergamo region, only 37 farms went into lockdown, i.e. 0.8% of the total, whilst the workforce of the agricultural sector and its related industry has increased by 3.5% in the last 5 years.
Why is this data so reassuring? In his article, Conti commented that state investments in the sector had been a great help, but also stressed the importance of the cooperation and desire for continuous improvement that characterises farm enterprises.
In this regard he interviewed our CEO Giusy Pezzali. This is what emerged during the interview:
“Among the enterprises in Bergamo that are leading players in the first range sector, the consortium of farmers OP Isola Verde in Telgate has been making its mark at a national level for many years.
Founded in 2014 by eleven affiliated members, after extensive experience in the field dating back to the 90s, today the OP has nineteen affiliated members, in both our province and that of Salerno.
Each farm or agricultural company has its own fields to cultivate (from 3-5 hectares, up to 50 hectares) and its own personnel: but they are all united by the same organization model and a work plan that guarantees they produce superior quality products adopting state-of-the-art processes with maximum attention to the smallest of details.
An outstanding 320 hectares of land is cultivated by the OP specialising in the growing and marketing of baby leaf salads (both integrated and organic, the latter seeing a consistent increase).
225 are processed in large multi-tunnel greenhouses in which there is ample room for manoeuvre, using cutting-edge machinery which guarantees maximum precision and safety.
Over 120 hectares are cultivated by the six farms in the Bergamo area (Orticoltura Sonzogni Giuliano, società agricola Naturvita, azienda agricola Pezzali Giuseppina, Orticoltura Merli e Sonzogni, società agricola Amicaterra e società agricola Santa Lucia), plus a further 200 hectares in the Salerno area, for a total of 11 thousand tons of produce foreseen for this year, including wild rocket, green and red baby lettuce, oriental salads, baby leaf mix, baby leaf lamb’s lettuce, baby spinach, red chard.
Continuous investments in state-of-the-art technology
Continuous investments in new technologies (examples include high-tech greenhouses equipped with automatic shading systems, power and recording stations to monitor temperatures and humidity, and innovative high-precision machinery), were also possible thanks to the capacity of the Bergamo OP to take advantage of various calls for funding, mainly regional (linked to the rural development program) but also European, for which it is essential to be an OP, that is, a group of producers which is able to present an operational plan.
“Public funds are essential for those who operate in the primary sector – explains Giuseppina (Giusy) Pezzali, Sales Director and Founder of Op Isola Verde – because there are many fixed costs and, in order to be competitive on the market whilst assuring quality, it is necessary to invest in new products, machinery and services, and then there is the weather factor, which always represents a great unknown, with all the related risks.
So calls for funding get the thumbs up, even more when supported by experts in the field, because it is necessary to overcome some challenging technical steps and achieve exceptionally high scores, making the advice of an expert a fundamental element.
The Telgate Op also successfully participated in the Inail (National institute for insurance against industrial injuries) calls for funding which made approximately €70 million in non-profit incentives for the purchase of high-tech equipment and machinery available to agricultural companies and farms.
All this has allowed Isola Verde to improve production efficiency, product quality and occupational health and safety, with a consequent excellent performance of the economic aspects and constant growth of the Telgate Op.
The figures speak for themselves.
In addition to the marked increase in cultivated hectares, the ytd number of employees has risen to 160, the fleet of machinery (i.e. the set of all the equipment needed to carry out operational activities) has grown from 50 in 2015 to 90 today. Turnover also rose from €16.8 million in 2015 to €26.8 million in 2019, an outstanding 60% increase in just five years. So farmers are not as green as they are cabbage-looking at Isola Verde.
Ancient traditions to be enhanced but, at the same time, looking to the future, investing in new ideas and innovations regarding products and services.
For example – continues Pezzali – the management procedure is centralised to share the cultivation methods and know-how among all our farms and guarantee a single production standard to all our customers”.
Attention throughout all production phases is a win-win strategy
The synergy among all the farms and a shared control and analysis process allows us to guarantee the supply of baby leaf salads throughout the year.
Every step of the production cycle is performed and controlled with maximum attention to detail, starting with soil analysis; this is followed by careful selection of seeds, the continuous monitoring of product growth, raw material quality, avoiding chemical weed killers and only using manual weeding of growing areas.
Monitoring of temperatures and humidity rates is also key, thanks to an automated shading system.
This is followed by immediate harvesting at exactly the right time and the various controls to preserve and assure product quality, which are carried out using optical sorters and metal detectors and a continuous plan of effective analytical controls. Last, but not least, come the packaging and shipping phases.
“We collect baby leaf salads in special packages to distinguish organic produce (yellow crates) from integrated produce (blue crates),” explains Giusy Pezzali. By request, we can also pack first range unwashed baby leaf salads in bags or trays with food-grade film using the flow pack technique.
We use biodegradable film (ref. corn) and R-PET trays. The packaging can be performed with neutral or personalised films, and the packages can be supplied in cardboard boxes, packs and mini-packs.
Almost all our baby leaf salads are not stressed by washing and drying processes, so they have a longer life cycle. Lamb’s lettuce is the only baby leaf salad which undergoes a washing and drying process using the dewatering method”.
The excellence of the OP’s work in Telgate has allowed it to obtain around a dozen certifications, the most important in its sector, also at a European level.
The latest investments by Isola Verde refer to the expansion of a warehouse to manage two processing systems, with particular attention paid to organic production activities (involving several companies), which is seeing a consistent growth in consumer demand.
The most cutting-edge machinery in the industry
The large multi-tunnel greenhouses used by Op Isola Verde allow the use of the most cutting-edge machinery in the industry, guaranteeing maximum cutting precision and safety for employees.
Every step of the production cycle is performed and controlled with maximum attention to detail, starting with soil analysis and the careful selection of seeds, the continuous monitoring of product growth, temperatures and humidity rates, also thanks to an automated shading system.
Immediate harvesting at exactly the right time and various controls to preserve and assure product quality, using optical sorters and metal detectors. After careful packaging the finished product is ready to ship.”
Source: L’Eco di Bergamo
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I believe in the continuous improvement and technological innovation applied to the agricultural sector with respect for the Planet.
I was one of the founders of OP Isola Verde and I am committed to ensuring our agricultural production is the right combination of innovation and traditional agriculture.
I promote the research on varieties and new solutions to produce quality baby leaf salads, and I believe in the “CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT” philosophy.