Huertas de Salobreña is part of a family project dedicated to the cultivation of exotic fruits. There are small-scale farms in this area, and our plots are also small, so the project involves several farms that have belonged to the family for decades. We grow avocados, custard apples, mangos, loquats and pitahayas in Salobreña, Motril and Almuñecar, all of which are located on the Costa Tropical in Granada, a stone's throw from the Mediterranean Sea and with the Sierra Nevada mountains as a backdrop. We decided to call the project Huertas de Salobreña as most of the farms are located in my family's hometown of Salobreña.
Our pitahaya plantation covers a total of almost two hectares spread across several farms, all cultivated under the same quality standards. There are lots of small-scale farmers in our area and we all get on very well. The area used to be entirely dedicated to sugarcane cultivation. However, the yields of sugarcane were low, so the landscape has been transformed with the emergence of custard apple, avocado, mango and pitahaya trees.
There's plenty of water in the area, as it comes down from the melted snow in the Sierra Nevada, the highest mountain range on the Spanish mainland. The water reaches the plant through a modern, efficient and sustainable drip irrigation system. The irrigation needs of each tree are determined by its own structure. This is why we adjust the amount of water to the needs of the plant depending on the weather, seasonality and production phase (less water is required in the flowering stage, while more is needed in the fattening and production stages).
The farms are designed and equipped to make the most of all natural resources. This sometimes involves the use of auxiliary materials and structures such as heating blankets that protect the water in the soil, large ridges to maintain moisture, protective mesh semi-tunnels for perfect sunlight, and an optimal distribution of drip irrigation channels.
The farms are in transition to organic farming. Our priority is to respect and care for the needs of our most valuable assets: Mother Nature and our workers. That's why we respect the patterns of the soil, air and water with a long-term and sustainable productive vision. At the same time, we guarantee the rights, health and needs of farmers.
As for weed management, they are cleared mechanically on a regular basis without using herbicides or phytosanitary products. What's more, we always look for clean alternatives to control pests and natural enemies. For example, our family has always sprinkled grains of rice on the soil so that insects like ants focus their attention on the rice rather than on the plant.
We have diversified crops on the farms, so we guarantee a greater agrobiodiversity and a lower natural and economic risk. It's interesting to see how by combining crops you can mitigate negative effects as they protect each other (for example, the avocado protects mangos and loquats from the wind, as it's a larger and leafier tree). This continuous circle also helps maintain the community of bees that pollinate our plants, as there are flowers on the crops for a longer period of time.
We don't have renewable energies on the farms, as they're small and don't need electricity supply. We're also very lucky not to depend on electricity for irrigation, as there's a good availability and structure of irrigation channels across the area.
Three of us work permanently on the farm, with this number rising up to six in the harvest and pruning periods. Most of the team has been working with us for more than seven years, and they're local and reliable people with a lot of experience. This is very important for us, as they know a lot about the rural world and tropical fruits thanks to plenty of practice and experience on the Costa Tropical.
Salaries are always paid according to the current agreement for agricultural workers. What's more, we like to offer perks and attractive conditions, such as a fully flexible working day (the workers set their own working hours according to their needs and the requirements of the crop), overtime payments, and bonuses on certain dates, etc.
We do our best not to throw away perfectly edible fruit. Only products with defects or organoleptic alterations that affect quality will be disposed of. Substandard fruit is generally sold as category 2. What's more, we work with food platforms such as CrowdFarming that accept products with 'aesthetic flaws', which makes much more sense for us. By-products from the farm are taken to the recycling plant in containers (during pruning) or deposited in our organic material containers.