Evelina, first cherry plantations, vineyard and sheep farm – Delta Agrar expanding production in Zajecar and announcing construction of cooling plant
Apple plantation with a protective net
Delta Agrar has expanded its fruit growing and livestock production activities to eastern Serbia. After the biggest orchard in this part of Europe, the one in Celarevo, the first 100 hectares were planted in Zajecar as well in 2016 and 2017. The new feature is the new exclusive apple variety – Evelina, which will premiere in the local market in October, along with other exclusive varieties, Modi, Pink Lady and KIKU, for which they own a unique production license. Delta Agrar has also decided to establish plantations of cherry (30 hectares), flat peach (3 ha), as well as the Italian Angeleno plum variety (1 ha), which can be kept in cold storage plants for up to 3-4 months.
For the first time, they've also raised a vineyard, on 7.5 hectares, with 10 varieties of seedless table grapes, of which there are currently very small amounts in the market, while the demand is great. The company has decided to make use of the characteristic inclination of the ground, which especially suits vineyards, and the expected maximum yield (in 2021) is 25 tons per hectare.
– The Zajecar area is very interesting to us, especially for its altitude, and we have therefore decided to try cultivating several varieties of fruit there. The manner of planting itself, the construction of protective systems and the technology are very innovative and this is why we want to start the production of cherries, peaches and plums, as well as apples, where we have been dominant for ten years now – Nikola Milicevic, director of the fruit growing sector at Delta Agrar, said on the occasion of the visit of a group of journalists from Belgrade and Novi Sad to the orchard in Zrenjanin.
So far, EUR 10 million has been invested in this property, and the plan is for the plantations to be expanded by 100 hectares each year and to form an orchard of 400 ha, where over 100 permanent and around 600 seasonal workers would be employed. The construction of a cold storage plant for apples and cherries, of the initial capacity of 3,000 tons, is planned for 2018.
Along with an expansion of fruit production, Delta Agrar has decided to enter the sector of sheep farming for the first time, with its adapted farm Vrazogrnac, located close to the Zajecar orchard. There are 500 head of livestock for now, in the first phase, and the intention is to reach the number of 2,000. They plan to raise another 2,000 sheep in another location in Zajecar as well.
New technologies lead to expansion of cherry
Cherry plantations are a new feature in the production program of Delta Agrar. This investment is worth around EUR 100,000 per hectare, and, according to Zoran Djogic, Category Manager for fruit growing and viticulture, this is the most modern plantation in Serbia and one of the most modern plantations in the world. The planting material is Dutch in origin, and the technology implemented is Dutch and German. There are 2,600 seedlings per hectare. The fruit is protected by foil, which keeps cherries from bursting open and serves as protection in case of rainy days during the harvest, and the orchard is also equipped with a drop-by-drop irrigation system and an automatic supplemental feeding system.
– We have opted for two types of protective systems, as we want to compare them from the very start – one is Austrian, the other German. In the Austrian system, the rain protection foil is separated from the anti-hail net, whereas the German technology is somewhat more innovative, as it integrates the two elements. The foil is also used as part of the system for protection from frost, as it prevents the cooling of the soil and the air next to the ground by expanding, so that the temperature is kept above zero – Djogic points out and adds that the insect-protection system is another new feature.
– A thick net is mounted on the side in order to prevent harmful insects from entering the plantation. This allows for a reduction in the amount of chemical treatments and the chemical protection will thereby be reduced to a minimum, as we will almost not be required to use insecticides.
The most frequent varieties of cherry in the orchard in Zrenjanin are those that are the most demanded primarily in the western market, namely, Regina and Cordia. There is also a wide range of other varieties, and those with bigger and firmer fruits and of a darker color are, of course, the most interesting to consumers.
– Cherry growing has been experiencing an expansion lately, thanks to new technologies, partly in production, but primarily in storage. The technology in question is the polyamide bag, which enables the cherry to be stored for a longer time at the temperature of 1 to 2 degrees. The fruits can be kept in them for 20-30 days, even longer, which enables us to market the cherry for a longer period of time and get a variety of prices. All of these new technologies will be implemented in Zajecar – Djogic explains.
He also emphasizes that Delta Agrar has decided to plant the cherries on the southern and northern exposition of the terrain, so that the maturation period, and with that the harvesting, might be extended to seven to ten days due to a large number of workers necessary. The full yield of 25 tons per hectare is expected in the seventh year.
Expansion of storage capacities
Nikola Milicevic says that the construction of a cold storage plant for apples and cherries, of the initial capacity of 3,000 tons, is planned for next year. Storage and processing capacities will be increased successively along with the expansion of the plantations, and the expansion of the calibration line and the introduction of new varieties are planned for next year as well.
New apple variety – Evelina
– The territory of the municipality of Zajecar is very suitable for fruit growing, which we have proven with our example and with our parallel analysis of the climate and the soil. I am sure that many small agricultural producers will turn to fruit production, which is up to ten times more profitable than any kind of farming – Milicevic points out and adds that Delta Agrar started cooperating with subcontractors about three years ago, but that the areas in question are not yet that big – around 60 hectares.
He also reminds that, in addition to placing it in the local market, Delta Agrar also exports fruit to the European Union and the Russian Federation.
Sheep farming more stable than calf fattening
Delta Agrar organized its first instance of sheep farming at the adapted farm Vrazogrnac, which meets the most modern standards. In the first phase, 235 sheep and 20 rams of Ile-de-France breed, which is extremely adaptable and suitable for breeding in closed spaces, were imported from France. Aside from the facilities with the most modern compartments and mechanization, a modern laboratory for artificial insemination has been raised at the farm as well.
– This is our new project within the livestock production and it was established in May 2017. The location previously featured a calf farm, and the company's management adopted a strategic plan for the construction of a sheep farm. A total of 4,000 head of livestock will be raised in Zajecar, 2,000 in Vrazogrnac and 2,000 in another location. The plan is to have over 10,000 lambs – explains Dusan Vruckic, farm manager.
The main goal is to sell sheep in the local market, and, as the capacities grow, the production will start being exported to other countries, primarily in the Middle East.
– The main characteristic of the Ile-de-France breed, which is grown primarily for meat, is a fast growth, and we will have sheep here which will reach the weight of 30-35 kg in 90 days. We plan to implement the most modern French technology, and, with artificial insemination, we expect to exceed the average of 180 lambs per 100 sheep. We will try to have more than 200 – Vruckic says.
The second farm in Zajecar is still being reconstructed. Around 20 people should be employed at these two locations.
Vruckic notes that sheep production is more stable than calf fattening, as the trend of lamb sale is constantly growing. Furthermore, Serbia doesn't have enough lamb meat, so the certainty of the price and the marketing was one of the reasons for Delta Agrar to start this new project.
The new exclusive apple variety, Evelina, has been planted on 16 hectares in Zajecar. The press visited the orchard on September 12, during the first selective harvest, and Milicevic says that the expected yield is 35 tons per hectare, whereas the full yield will amount to 100 tons.
– Evelina is a sweet and sour exclusive apple breed from Germany, one of the five most renowned exclusive breeds in the world. It is characterized by its aroma, and, thanks to its natural firmness and resilience, this apple remains fresh and crispy long after it is picked.