Top of the Crop

Fruits Unlimited’s stone fruit production is concentrated in South Africa’s beautiful Western Cape region. It exports only top-quality produce with unparalleled flavour
Boschendal is surrounded by soaring mountain ranges
ITP Images
Boschendal is surrounded by soaring mountain ranges
January 22, 2020
By Tiffany Eslick

Fruits Unlimited was established in 2001. The company owns a number of Unlimited Group farms, but also works with more than 70 stone fruit growers – to ensure it can leverage unique microclimates to produce a bounty of top-quality produce.

In terms of the latter, Fruits Unlimited has developed many game-changing varieties, giving its growers exclusive and exciting opportunities to work with next-generation cultivars.

“We identify great new cultivars from a range of international breeding programmes, and plant the best ones,” says product manager Jannie Marais, who is also the South African representative of the Custom Plum Company. “We’ve bought the sole rights to growing California-based Zaiger Genetics’ interspecifics, and we’re working with amazing, naturally cross-bred new varietals – such as apricots, nectarines and cherries with different types of plums.”

A company that has invested heavily in Fruits Unlimited’s vision is Boschendal – a post-card perfect Cape Dutch farm that dates back to 1685. Up until 2014, it’s always been known for its vineyards, but now, thanks to a massive project pioneered by Jacques du Toit – managing director of Agriculture and Estate, 152 hectares of high-density yielding interspecific plum trees have been added to the mix. 

“We’ve planted 600,000 new trees in the last three years,” says Jacques. “When we started we only had around 10 hectares of plums. It’s exciting to be part of such growth and work with cutting-edge varieties. Our location is excellent, too. We’re blessed with great water sources and good soils, and we’re backed by people who believe in what we do.”

We’re particularly impressed by Boschendal and Fruits Unlimited’s exclusive cherry plums (also known as Sweet Pixies), which, among others, are supplied to Spinneys. A cross between a cherry and a plum, they’re small, so ideal for snacking, and a sweet treat.

“We were willing to take a risk with the cherry plums and it really paid off,” says Jacques. “In fact, of all 16 plum varietals we’ve trialled on Boschendal, only two have not showed potential.”

The farm’s mixture of both early and late fruit varieties means that their picking and packing season has increased dramatically. And this crop diversity has a direct impact on the stability of employment at Boschendal. The business has done a lot to provide permanent roles within the local community.

Investment in people is high on Jacques’ list. He’s even received two international innovation nominations for a double-pole trellis system, which he designed and built with the purpose of being able to employ more women. The plum trees are kept shorter than usual, so that pruning and picking is easier.
“There’s a lot of climbing up and down ladders in the fruit-farming industry – we didn’t want our female staff risking their safety,” he says. “You can have the best soil, equipment and ideas, but if you don’t invest in your staff then you’re nothing.”

For more information, please visit Fruits Unlimited