Andrew Rosychuk believes he’s sown the beginnings of a new, massive fruit industry.
On Rosy Farms, 26 acres located north of Alcomdale in Sturgeon County, Rosychuk is growing haskaps. They’re inch-long berries, dark blue in colour, that grow naturally in Russia, Japan and Canada.
The University of Saskatchewan has released seven varieties of the hardy fruit, which are capable of overwintering in -50 C.
“I’d say they’re a superfruit. Three times the antioxidants as a blueberry, five times the anti-inflammatories as a blueberry,” Rosychuk says, adding that there’s a lot of room for improving haskap cultivars.
“As well, the flavour’s really, really intense. It tastes like three-quarters blueberry, one quarter raspberry, some blackberry, elderberry tang.”
Rosychuk, 32, was sharing his story as an agricultural entrepreneur during last Saturday’s Eco-Living Fair at Red Deer College.
Farming skipped a generation in his family. Rosychuk’s father worked as the chief financial officer for the City of Edmonton. A self-proclaimed city slicker, Rosychuk moved to attend Olds College, graduating in 2005 with a diploma in production horticulture.
He experimented with planting cherries, currants and haskaps and jokes that the deer loved the cherries, the bugs loved the currants but he fell in love with the haskaps.
Rosychuk spent the last decade competing in triathlons and still works in the trades for Suncor.
In 2014, he finally purchased about 80 acres of land for his orchard, with his first harvest expected in 2019.
His goal is to market wholesale and start a product line. But for that to happen, he needs to produce more volume.
“If you think of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice, they have 16,000 acres to create that one product,” Rosychuk says. “You need to have volume behind you. I’ve seen people who tried to make their own haskap product and failed.”
This summer, he’s setting up at farmers markets in St. Albert and Edmonton during the first three weeks of July.
It will be the first time he’s sold his fruit -- he says so far, haskaps have only cost him money while he finds a way to market his crop. But Rosychuk has shown that he’s a patient man.
“High-bush blueberries in B.C. is 29,000 acres. I think we could get in the same realm as blueberries. But it’s going to take time. I’m still thinking 10 years until we get haskaps as a household name.”