Immerse yourself in the vivid hues of Australia's billion-dollar berry industry!
Explore strawberries in Queensland to blueberries in NSW. Dive into our guide on Australia’s ‘berry best’ and learn unique berry facts. There are thriving growing regions with vibrant harvest seasons ripe for the picking.
Australia’s berry industry, a sector bursting with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, adds a splash of colour to the landscape. It significantly contributes to Australia’s economy, worth over a billion dollars. Let’s explore the unique traits of these fruity delights, their growing regions, harvest seasons, and the work opportunities they provide.
The history of strawberries in Australia begins in the 1950s in Victoria’s Yarra Valley when migrant families settling on Melbourne’s outskirts began commercial cultivation. These pioneers laid the foundation for a thriving industry.
Fast-forward to today, approximately 68,000 tonnes are produced yearly, and strawberries have found a place close to Australia’s heart. These vibrant fruits are primarily grown in Queensland and Victoria, accounting for 42% and 36% of the national production respectively.
Fun fact: Unlike other fruits, strawberries wear their seeds proudly on the outside, with each berry boasting an average of 200 seeds!
Blueberries, often hailed as the ‘superfood’ of the fruit world, are grown predominantly in New South Wales. Accounting for a staggering 86% of Australia’s blueberry production, regions like Coffs Harbour and the North Coast are the primary areas for these nutrient-rich berries.
Fun fact: Blueberries stand out in the fruit spectrum, being one of the few naturally blue foods. Also, cultivating blueberries is a lesson in patience, with a bush taking about four years to bear fruit.
While most states grow raspberries, the cooler climates of Tasmania, Victoria’s Yarra Valley, and the north coast of New South Wales are the prime raspberry-growing areas in Australia. These regions offer the cool, temperate conditions that raspberries need to thrive.
Fun fact: Raspberries love a bit of variety! Apart from the traditional red, you can also find them in black, purple, and golden hues.
Perfectly suited to cooler climates, blackberries prosper in areas such as Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula and Tasmania. The blackberry harvest season typically spans from December to April, each year.
Fun Fact: Blackberries are incredibly productive plants. A single bush can yield up to 7,000 berries per year! Plus, unripe blackberries offer a colour surprise – they are red, not black.
Diverse berry roles
Picking Roles: The quintessential activity within the berry industry is picking.
Strawberries, grown in open fields or under protective tunnels on tables or trestles, require nimble-fingered individuals. For ground picking, workers typically sit in a cart with a canopy, moving the cart with their legs while bending over to harvest the strawberries. Meanwhile, harvesting strawberries on table tops involves less bending and physical activity. Still, it can be challenging in hot and humid conditions.
Blueberries and Rubus berries (including raspberries and blackberries) require a similar picking process. The ripe berries are plucked by hand, ensuring they are fully coloured and firm. The berries are collected into buckets worn on the waist, baskets, or directly into punnets. This role requires good hand-eye coordination and careful handling to prevent damage to the berries and the bushes.
Packing Shed Roles: Once the berries are picked, they head to the packing shed where they are washed, sorted, and packaged for distribution. This work may involve manual labour or the operation of high-tech machinery with conveyor belts that move the fruit through sensors. The only human intervention in this process is required for quality checking. Packaging typically involves placing the berries in punnets (small plastic containers).
Crop Maintenance Roles: Maintenance of plants is another critical aspect of the industry. Pruning, which involves cutting back small branches, is a regular task. It requires specific guidance from a supervisor to ensure that the bushes stay healthy and productive.
Specialised Roles: Besides the above roles, the berry industry offers specialised positions. Forklift and tractor drivers are integral to the operations of a berry farm, moving supplies, harvested berries, and packaging materials around the property. Some of these roles require specific licences and prior experience.
Quality control personnel ensure the berries meet the required standards. They examine the fruit for ripeness, damage, and cleanliness before packaging. Supervisory roles are also essential in managing the teams of pickers, packers, and maintenance workers, ensuring that all tasks are carried out efficiently and effectively.
If you are an employer requiring labour for your berry harvest, contact the Harvest Trail Information Service on 1800 062 332. Friendly operators can take your details and promote your vacancies nationwide, all at no cost.