AGRI-PULSE - Brett Miller recently acquired a farm in the coastal belt just north of Port Alfred a few miles off the R72. A farrier by trade and after many successful years working in his profession, he and his wife Sally decided to start farming.
With a passion to turn the soil, they started from scratch with only a couple of greenhouses.
Initially, Brett began growing various well-known and market-leading varieties to support his new lifestyle. It was only after a couple of crops that he then contacted Nuvance for advice and variety options. I realised on my first visit that Brett was not going to be easily swayed, but he remained open to different views and suggestions. He was also very willing to look and trial new varieties/options as the local demand for his mini-plum tomatoes grew. Nuvance, with its recent acquisition by Dutch-based Bejo, is now in a leading position to supply varieties of numerous crop categories that can compete equally and often better than some of our competitor varieties. The timing was thus perfect. With the help of our product development manager, Dr Quintin Muhl, we sourced several new varieties and amongst them a phenomenal mini-plum tomato variety which we knew would suit our producer’s specifications here in Southern Africa. One of these varieties was the new NTOM005, which Brett agreed to put to the test. The trial was very successful and for his subsequent planting, Brett decided to order a large portion of NTOM005 to supplement his growing orders for mini-plum tomatoes.
NTOM005 has been a great success countrywide and was recently submitted for registration as Donatello*. A perfectly sculpted mini-plum tomato that is guaranteed to yield. Donatello* has a very good disease package including Tomato Mosaic Virus (ToMV), Tomato Yellow Leaf Curl Virus (TYLCV), Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV), Fusarium (Fol:1) and Nematodes (Ma/Mi/Mj). Key benefits observed by Brett between Donatello* and another market-leading variety were that Donatello* plants were more vigorous, earlier into production and ultimately had the higher yield. Also, Donatello* showed good field tolerance against powdery mildew, whereas Brett had to react with immediate and regular spraying on some of his other varieties to bring the powdery mildew under control. An issue that many growers are familiar with especially along the coastal routes where the relative humidity is often high.
As a developing producer, Brett also grows cucumbers, peppers and regular round tomatoes all under plastic. This diversity of vegetable crops assists him to maintain a progressive cash flow without being dictated by the market of a single crop. Brett also packs all his produce on the farm under the label of ‘Chelsea Veg’ which also allows him some leverage when it comes to the surrounding markets. Sally is equally invested in the business by keeping the finances in order and the customers content. Often when I’m quizzing Brett on issues of the business regarding costs, he replies with ‘just ask Sally’ with a gentle smile.
Recently their son Liam also joined the operation and the expansion of their farm continues. We at Nuvance continue to work closely with Brett and Sally and are confident that they will grow the business according to their long-term vision. We look forward to being a small contributor to their success.