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EARI14-006: Black Currant Harvester

Applicant: Happy Knight Wines

Project Lead: Angela Guptill

Project Year(s): 2014 -2015      Status: Complete

Funding Source: Canada/New Brunswick Growing Forward 2 (Non-Business Risk Management Programs)

Funding Program: Enabling Agricultural Research and Innovation

Objective: The main objective of this project is to procure a BEI 500-series tow-behind harvester, suitable for harvesting a maximum of 20 acres of black currants. This machine is also suitable for harvesting high-bush blueberries and haskap berries.

Deliverables: Successfully machine-harvest 5 acres of currants. Maximize profitability & competitiveness by reducing harvesting costs, maximizing harvest yield and minimizing imports.

Summary: Happy Knight Wines was established in 2011 to offer high quality fruit wines to both local and export markets. Its flagship products, an off-dry black currant wine & Crème de Cassis liqueur, are produced using berries purchased from a grower’s cooperative in Prince Edward Island, Canada. An ever-growing demand, both domestic & abroad, has made it increasingly difficult to secure the necessary quantities of berries at a feasible price. In order to become self-sustaining, and to ensure adequate control over input costs (e.g. cost of fruit supply), in 2014 Happy Knight Wines applied to the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (NBDAAF) for funding under the New Brunswick Growing Forward 2 program to assist in the purchase of a harvester suitable for its 5 acres of black currants in Hatfield Point, New Brunswick. In consultation with our black currant supplier, McGinnis Berry Crop, Happy Knight had selected a BEI 500-series harvester, mainly due to (i) their availability within North America and (ii) familiarity with the machines from suppliers we had established close relationships with. After receiving initial project approval from NBDAAF to proceed with this project, the supplier, BEI International, went into receivership leaving us without a supplier and unable to harvest our crop in 2014 as planned. We had hand-picked to the point of becoming uneconomical and yielded approximately 2 to 2.5 lbs per plant (for the plants that were picked) which we sold to local farmers markets as fresh berries or as jam. After receiving approval from NBDAAF via email to proceed with sourcing an alternative harvester under the existing project, additional market research led us to a supplier from Saskatchewan who offered a harvester that was more economical and more efficient (e.g. greater berry recovery) which was also suitable for harvesting currants, raspberries, haskcaps, blackberries, sea buckthorn, and most other ‘bush berry’. The harvester selected was a Joanna-4 Slim which is manufactured in Poland by Weremczul Agromachine, which is suitable for harvesting up to 60 acres. The harvester was delivered from Poland via Halifax, Nova Scotia to Hall Brothers in Norton, New Brunswick on February 9th, 2015. It is being stored at Hall Brothers until harvest time later this year.

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