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December 12, 2003
For immediate release

Loading Systerm Allows for Expansion to New Markets

Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture & Forestry

Blueberries have been one of the major growth areas in Prince Edward Island agriculture over the last several years, and producers like Gerry Hackett are committed to keeping the industry on its upward swing. For the last number of years, berries from his 100-acre operation in Seacow Pond have been a fixture in grocery stores throughout the province.

Now, with funding help from the Prince Edward Island ADAPT Council (which administers the Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development (CARD) Fund in the province for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), Gerry hopes to expand his marketing to the population-rich New England states.

Hackett, who operates under the company name Hackett's Wildberry Farm (the operation also includes a three-acre cranberry bog), has purchased a semi-automatic electronic pint loading system. He explained the technology allows blueberries to be packaged in plastic pint containers as a traceable product.

The containers are then sold to the Sunrise County Wild Blueberry Association in Maine, where they are marketed under the Sunrise County name. Hackett said they received a contract for 5,500 pints of blueberries this year, and he is hoping to expand that to 50,000 pints within the next two years. If those predictions come true, Hackett's Wildberry Farm will be buying product from other Island growers.

The system is the first of its kind in Canada, and Hackett is proud the technology was developed and made right here at home the machine was built by Acadian Machine Works in Tignish. "The machine helped us deliver a quality and attractively packaged product," he explained. "The New England market, especially the New York area, is largely untapped and there is tremendous potential for growth."

After passing through the grader, the blueberries are carried by conveyor belts to the filling stations, where they are packaged in the familiar plastic "clam shell" containers. The product is then fresh frozen to retain quality during the shipping process.

Hackett has already held a field day to demonstrate his product, with several growers from across the province in attendance. The Sunrise County Wild Blueberry Growers Association is supporting the farm's efforts and may possibly recommend the system to some of its other members after further testing is done.

"This market has the potential to expand 20-30 times the current level and provides attractive gross and net margins to the blueberry producers of Prince Edward Island," Hackett explained.

Chris Jordan, the berry crop development officer with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Forestry, called the machine a "great diversification opportunity for the lowbush blueberry industry in the province."

(This is one of a series of articles prepared by the Agricultural Awareness Committee and funded by the Prince Edward Island ADAPT Council and other partners to highlight new and innovative developments in the province's farming community.)

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Media Contact: Daphne Crosby
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