How to beat labour shortages for your strawberry crop

Date: 26 May 2021

For strawberry farmers and many others in the horticulture industry, finding farm labour for harvest time is a real struggle. Even before COVID-19 hit the globe and international travel was interrupted, finding the labour needed at harvest has proved to be a challenge.

So, what if you could future proof your farm to have better labour options and more control?

The future is above ground growing

With traditional methods of farming strawberries, soil conditions are less easily managed, making it difficult to predict week to week labour requirements. When things do go well and you get a good crop ready to be harvested, you face potential labour challenges that can lead to spoiled crops and money lost.

So how do you improve your strawberry farm and mitigate some of these risks? By moving to above-ground coir substrate growing!

Hydroponic growing in coir substrate has a multitude of benefits for your farm and strawberry crop, which will see you through into the future and prepare your farm for any challenges ahead. We’re going to take you through three ways that moving above ground can change your farm for the better.

1 | It changes your reliance on a young, seasonal workforce

Traditionally the labour pool at harvest is mostly drawn from seasonal workers who can bend down and spend all day picking. These labourers are often found via labour companies and backpacker groups who are usually fit to the task. However in a labour market left wanting, you may find yourself with workers not suited to long, physically challenging days, leaving your harvest efficiency compromised.

In-house Galuku agronomist, Ronan Hoyle says “This is a scenario often faced by strawberry growers throughout the world, with labour shortages translating to a loss of productivity and damaging bottom lines.” According to Hoyle, “Switching to Tabletop Coir substrate production is not going to fix the problem overnight, but by moving from the ground into tabletop gutters you can make harvesting easier, more efficient and have more control over the whole process.”

Bringing your crops up to waist-height makes harvesting your strawberry crop easier. Without the need to bend down in the sun all day, you can employ older people and more local workers, who are able to work in different conditions more regularly.

2 | It improves efficiency for harvesting

Better conditions for your harvest labour help to improve the efficiency of your pick. With above-ground growing, harvesting becomes easier and more streamlined. Meaning less time to harvest and a smaller, more efficient workforce provides the opportunities to harvest your entire crop maximising crop revenue whilst simultaneously reducing your harvest cost!

3 | It gives you more control over crop losses

The nature of strawberry farming in soil is one with many challenges and including changing climate and soil conditions. When you move to above-ground strawberries and grow in coir substrate, there is better control over nutrition, moisture, pests and diseases that have the potential to not only reduce losses but improve fruit quality.

Additionally, high tunnels or greenhouses can give further benefits of more control over the climate and over the success of your strawberry crop. Plus, with the ability to attract more workers of a broader variety due to improved conditions, potential losses from labour shortages and less likely to have a big impact.

Are you ready to take control of the future of your farm? Above ground growing in coir substrate doesn’t just produce better strawberry crops but helps you with the overall productivity and profitability of your farm.

At Galuku we’re here to help you succeed! Download our guide to growing strawberries or book a consultation with us.