Costa product innovation drives new premium offerings

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The new Costa Innovation Centre has been formally launched this week (March 20) at Costa’s glasshouse facility in Guyra, on the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales.

There are close to 30 new types and varieties of produce already being tested in the Innovation Centre to assess their potential as commercial fruit and vegetable product lines.  They include popular produce, such as cucumbers, as well as innovative new varieties of fruit and vegetables.

Marc Werner, Costa CEO, and Manpreet Sidhu, Vertical Farming General Manager, cut the ribbon for the Centre, which is housed in a 4000 sq metre glasshouse.

“Costa is well known for being an industry leader in the growing and supply of premium fresh produce, including our glasshouse grown tomatoes, and we are excited to be able to diversify and extend our product offering. We look forward to sharing more with our customers as we progress through our testing,” Mr Werner said.

Since 2005, Costa has invested more than $200 million in the establishment and ongoing expansion of 40 hectares of glasshouses, spread across two locations in Guyra – Elm Street and New England Highway.

The glasshouses enable produce to be grown in a sustainable and fully protected cropping environment which helps to mitigate the impact of extreme weather volatility, requires less land than comparable field crops, enables the supply of consistent quality produce year-round, and more efficient yield per unit of water usage versus field crops.

“This Centre will ensure we can continue to innovate and develop new, premium quality differentiated produce varieties for our customers, both in Australia and through existing and emerging export opportunities,” Mr Werner said.

It’s official: Costa Group develops and grows world’s heaviest blueberry

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Costa Group, a global leader in the development of premium blueberry varieties, has hit the record books for developing and growing the world’s heaviest blueberry, according to the official Guinness World Records.

The blueberry was from the Eterna variety, as part of Costa’s globally recognised Variety Improvement Program (VIP), which licenses Costa bred blueberry varieties in regions including the Americas, Morocco, China, and south east Africa.

The blueberry was picked on November 13, 2023, at Costa’s berry farm in Corindi, New South Wales, Australia.  Weighing in at a whopping 20.40g (0.71oz) and measuring 39.31 millimetres, it was grown by Brad Hocking, Jessica Scalzo and Marie-France Courtois.  The previous world record was for a 16.20g berry grown in Western Australia in 2020.

Costa’s VIP program is headquartered at Corindi and has been operating for more than 25 years, developing on average one to two new varieties of blueberries of global commercial value each year.

It utilises Costa’s extensive network of farms in mid latitude, low latitude, and low chill to mid-chill locations to select, evaluate and develop new varieties suitable for a range of global growing conditions, meeting both customer and consumer requirements for premium blueberry varieties.

George Jessett, Costa Berries International Horticulture Manager, said there was a huge amount of confidence and excitement around the new varieties.

“We are always looking to develop new varieties that improve on the current benchmark and meet evolving customer requirements.  We are also looking to breed varieties that are more adaptable to hotter climates, are more drought tolerant and with better resistance against pest and disease pressure,” George said.

Senior Horticulturalist Brad Hocking said the Eterna variety was known for its large fruit size, crisp texture and long shelf life.

“Eterna as a variety has a really great flavour and consistently large fruit.  When we picked this one, there were probably around 20 other berries of a similar size,” Brad said.

While the team is excited to be recognised with the world record, quality and flavour remain the top priority in selecting and developing new varieties through Costa Group’s VIP program.

“This really is a delightful piece of fruit. While the fruit is large, there’s absolutely no compromise on quality or flavour as would be expected when developing a premium variety blueberry,” Brad said.

World's heaviest blueberry on scale

Costa Tomato Exchange awards community grants

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Seven organisations including community and sporting groups and a school will receive funding through the Costa Tomato Exchange Well Grown Community Grants Program for 2024.

State Manager NSW Brett Ryan said there were 40 applications for funding through the program, which this year provided grants across the five categories of: sporting event/activity; community event; community project; school project/initiative; and environmental initiative/activity.

“We were really pleased to see so many applications and it again made the selection process very difficult.  We used an independent reviewer to assess the applications to ensure they were each judged fairly according to our criteria,” Mr Ryan said.

The recipients for 2024 are:

School project/initiative:  Kelly’s Plains Public School

Environmental initiative/activity: Guyra Neighbourhood Centre

Community Project: Young Life Armidale

Community Event:  Guyra Trout Festival

Sporting event/activity: Guyra Shamrock Hockey, Armidale Blues Netball, Duval Dam Buster Trail Run.

“We look forward to seeing the outcomes from these organisations and thank everyone who took the time to complete an application.”