30.08.2023 | 4 min read

How implementing digital agronomy elevated African Blue’s blueberry production

African Blue's blueberry crop tunnels
WayBeyond’s digital agronomy solution, FarmRoad, provided data visibility for better grower decision-making.

African Blue is a blueberry producer based in North Africa, majority owned by Costa Group, Australia’s leading grower and marketer of fresh fruits and vegetables.

With over 470 hectares of protected blueberry production to manage, African Blue is Morocco’s largest producer of blueberries. Their crop manangement team were looking to improve oversight of their blueberry farms and the efficiency of farm practices. They were eager to find a solution to help them unify data from multiple sites, minimize the need for in-person farm visits and reduce their reliance on manual readings.

With blueberry production sites in the Moulay Bousselham, Larache and Agadir regions of Morocco, African Blue’s farms are spread across the country with 350 hectares in the north, and around 120 hectares in the south, including third party farms. The blueberries are grown in poly tunnel houses, both in soil and substrate, and these are equipped with basic climate control measures for heating and venting.

Aziz El Kahlaoui is African Blue’s Horticultural Manager, one of his major challenges was the lack of accessibility of the climate data and blueberry plant health data across all nine farms. Having this would better inform farm management decisions. In October 2022, African Blue turned to WayBeyond’s FarmRoad digital agronomy solution as the single platform to continuously monitor and visualise their farms' data. Consisting of a complete ecosystem of sensor network, digital platform and mobile app, the solution provides African Blue with continuous capture of climate and environment readings, real-time data visualisation, and alerts for managing health of the blueberry crop.

We needed a crop monitoring and management solution that could bring all the data types from our farms together in one place to be visualised in real time. With this, we could get a better understanding of what was going on, and it would provide me with insights into crop development across all our farms without needing to be at the farms themselves,”

Aziz El Kahlaoui, African Blue’s Horticultural Manager

WayBeyond team meet with African Blue agronomists

Blueberries at risk from frost and disease

Another need was accurate and remote measurement of climate to anticipate risk of frost and disease threat to the blueberries.

“In winter time in Morocco there is the risk of frost damaging the blueberry fruits and affecting production. Previously, if the weather forecast indicated a potential frost, members of my team would have to travel to the farms and manually check the temperature with thermometers, then decide on a course of action. They knew that if the temperature was 5°C at a certain point in the day, a frost was imminent. But they couldn’t find out if it was actually 5°C until they travelled out to the farm and accessed the data logger. ” continues Aziz.

Remote monitoring blueberry crop health and climate

There are large distances between some of the blueberry farms – sometimes as much as 45 minutes drive on poor roads – so in-person visits were both time and labour intensive. To combat frost, African Blue use heaters but with this comes increased risk of disease from the high humidity generated, so knowing when to ventilate was also vital to mitigate this risk. “One of our challenges is that in the north, one of our farms is so large that some compartments are at different altitudes and one part is very close to the ocean and the other is not. The blueberry tunnels at this farm have such variation in climate that we were inspecting every single tunnel to understand the individual microclimates.”

Harnessing FarmRoad meant the horticultural team at African Blue were better able to monitor the status of their crops and the farm as a whole, respond faster to unexpected events, and to make timely crop management decisions based on accurate data that they can access remotely.

Read more details about African Blue’s blueberry production, the environment and how they solved their issues in this blueberry grower case study.

African Blue Case Study pages