Tiffany Bohlin’s grandfather was a blueberry grower. When Bohlin moved to South Africa in 2006, she wasn’t expecting to learn she had the same love for the super fruit.
Here’s what happened: Bohlin discovered a sustainable, organic growing operation out of Cape Town. She immediately knew she had found something that could change the way New Jersey blueberries are grown and harvested each year.
The Endeavor Begins
Bohlin invited officials from the United States Department of Agriculture to South Africa to review the operation, hoping it could be brought to the United States. “They said to me, ‘This would really work well in America,’” Bohlin said. From there, officials brought scientists down to see if a similar platform could be built in the U.S. By the end of 2015, FullBlue360 blueberry farm in Lacey Township was up and running.
How it’s Done
The sustainable growth process uses retractable netting and a bagged technique to give the berries the perfect environment to grow year-round (where climate allows) while reducing overall irrigation. In New Jersey, Bohlin says the growing season is extended by “a good month.”
The blueberries grow using up to 70% less water than standard irrigation practices would use. The process requires no soil, making the blueberries perfect for growing in various climates, and the sustainable growth medium increases annual blueberry yields by 200%. Plus, FullBlue360 blueberries comply with USDA organic standards, and the minimal water requirement ensures that the berries can be grown regardless of water scarcity or agricultural issues resulting from climate change.
When production on the Lacey farm began, Bohlin was still living in South Africa. Her vision had become greater than a passion project. “For the first two years of the operation, I traveled back and forth [from South Africa to the U.S.] at least five times each year,” Bohlin said. She returned to New Jersey for good in 2018.
Bohlin chose to build her platform around blueberries because of their stability, popularity, and health benefits. “If you’re using a system like this, you want to pick a fruit that is stable in the market,” Bohlin said. “And while they’re a popular fruit, they’re variable. You never know the quality you’re going to get. Finally, we can get a [reliably] quality blueberry.”
The organic protocols don’t allow the farm to offer a pick-your-own option, but the berries are available in grocery stores around the state. Bohlin is hoping to move FullBlue360 berries to some online platforms next year as well.
Learn more at FullBlue360.com