Development of “Ecofruits” strawberry cooperatives

The project “Development of “Ecofruits” strawberry cooperatives lasted in Ukraine since 2010 till the end of 2017. The project was implemented with co-funding from Danone Ecosystem Fund (France), Heifer International (USA), Dantrade LLC (Netherlands) in cooperation with the International Charitable Fund “Dobrobuthromad” (Ukraine) and Public Association “Innovative Farming and Cooperation” (Ukraine). Partial co-funding of the part of equipment (refrigeration chamber) was carried out with support of USAID (USA).

Funding of the partnership project for the establishment of a strawberry cooperative was implemented within the framework of the cooperation of the International Charitable Fund “Dobrobuthromad”, Danone Ecosystem Fund, Dantrade and Danone companies in Ukraine, and Heifer International (USA).

The project was aimed at helping farmers to increase their own profits by organizing into the agricultural service cooperative (ASC) to produce strawberry on the basis of modern technologies and wholesaling through a cooperative.

Within the framework of the project, the cooperative is provided with all necessary soil-tilling equipment (tractor, trailer, milling cutter, cultivator, plough, ridge former, spraying device, diesel generator, etc.), highly productive frigo seedlings (stored in cold till the very bedding), machinery and manufacturing facilities for drip watering; building and furnishing of a chamber for precooling of strawberry harvest, etc.The up-to-date technology of growing strawberries providing the use of frigo-seedlings of the highest category, polyethylene mulching to avoid soil overdrying and wild grass,as well as use of the drop watering system, which will significantly reduce the amounts of make-up water.

Establishment of the strawberry cooperative

The first farm, where the development project was implemented, was a cooperative “Losiatynmolochnedzherelo” in Losiatyn village, Kremenets district, Ternopil region. On the base of it, the industrial production of strawberries was initiated. At the moment of project beginning, it was one of the most depressed regions in Ukraine with high level of labour migration to Poland. And in the same time this region had almost 100-year history of growing strawberries and perfect climatic conditions and soil for this culture.

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In 2010, the cooperative leased the first hectares of shares for growing strawberries, in 2011, first 10 hectares were planted with strawberries. To carry out production activities in 2013 the cooperative registered an enterprise Ecofruits LLC, which has 23 ha of strawberries planted as of 2017.
During the project activities preparatory field works and works of water provision for plants by building a retention basin with the area of 0.4 ha, as well as well renovation. A tractor, a fertilizer distributor, a spraying device, a disk harrow, a milling cutter, a ridging device, a modern drip watering system, weed-whackers and rotary tillers for weeding and laboring of raw spacing, as well as a powerful electrical generatorwere purchased. Losiatyn Village Council lent two rooms as a cooperative’s office space, and the District Council paid for renovation. Apart from this, the cooperative is leasing threshing-floor premises and buildings thereon from the Village Council. To provide efficient strawberries logistics, the project funded building of a 30 t refrigeration chamber and a 15 t freezer compartment, a thermo vehicle and an electric lift truck.

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The main buyer of strawberries from Losiatyn is the DanoneCompany, which uses highest quality strawberries to produce yoghurts under their trading marks (Activia, Zhyvynka, Prostokvashyno) in Ukraine. In addition, strawberries are sold through wholesale markets, and in 2017, they even appeared on the supermarkets’ shelves.
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Apart from the cooperative in Losiatyn, Agrofruit ASC established in 2014 in Romaniv village, Peremyshliany district, Lviv region obtained financial aid for purchasing equipment, planting material and sprinkling systems.
The project also initiated an active cooperation with family farms engaged in growing strawberries. In aggregate, they planted 5.5 ha of strawberries under the terms of co-funding, which demonstrates the farmers’ readiness to partially fund the expenses related to growing strawberries, and this fact, in turn, represents their faith in economic efficiency and stability of this project idea.
1682 persons underwent training carried out within the framework of the project. By virtue of training, consultancy support and experience exchange in Ternopil and Lviv regions 7 new cooperatives have emerged which had direct relation to the project.
For 7 years of project implementation, 297 working places were created, 1525 people got seasonal job or additional earnings. In general, the project positively influenced on the life of more than 4500 people (families of those having relation to the project). Project participants managed to increase their profits by 40-70%.Being officially employed, the workers of cooperative enterprise will obtain unemployment benefits in “cold” months, when there is no work on the field. This became possible due to the fact that the cooperative enterprise pays social taxes as an employer. As the result, the social-economic situation in the cooperative operating area improved – unemployment reduced and labour migration of local population abroad significantly decreased. As of today, the cooperative enterprise forms 80% of Losiatyn village’s budget.

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Losiatynmolochnedzherelo ASC is actively working on diversification of services for its members. The cooperative is actively engaged in collection of raspberries from their members.
In cooperation with and with the assistance of Public Association “Innovative Farming and Cooperation” trainings and studies on technology, quality and strawberries business management take place.