A HISTORY OF EXPERTISE
HISTORY AND GROWTH
Cranberry growing began at the dawn of the 19th century in the State of Massachusetts. Cultivation then expanded to Wisconsin and New Jersey.
In 1939, Québec’s first cranberry grower settled in the Centre-du-Québec region. The province then had to wait 45 years until a second grower, Marc Bieler, founded his own cranberry farm. This company, Bieler Cranberries Inc., is ATOKA Cranberries’ sister company. It is not only the world’s third largest cranberry grower, but is also Canada’s foremost cranberry grower.
Cranberry farming has seen significant growth in the 2000s, with the Centre-du-Québec region representing the core of this agricultural operation. In 2012, Québec’s production represented about 20% of the world’s total output, with the United States, specifically the State of Wisconsin being the top cranberry grower, supplying roughly 40% of the world’s total volume in 2012.
SMART, EFFECTIVE WATER MANAGEMENT
Snowmelt and rainwater are collected through gravity and pumped into reservoirs located on-site, then used to irrigate plants, protect the buds and fruits over the winter and flood the fields during harvest season.
TARGETED MEASURES RESPECTING BIODIVERSITY
Atoka collaborates exclusively with environmentally conscious growers that respect government regulations to produce a superior-quality fruit. Be it prevention through integrated pest management or targeted field treatments, our growers take care to engage in environmentally sound operations.
Respecting biodiversity as a commitment to society and sustainable development is at the heart of all our growers’ actions, such as those of our sister company, Canneberges Bieler Inc.
CRANBERRIES THROUGH THE SEASONS
Did you know that the name “Cranberry” comes from the shape of its flower? Indeed, the plant was formerly called Crane-Berry, as its flower, right before opening, resembles a crane’s neck, head and beak. Fields remain flooded until late April to protect the plants until the end of the cold season. In early May, the plants are trimmed to expose younger growths, foster growth and ensure better pollination.
Cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) are part of the heath family. This climbing vine-like plant is never over 30 centimeters high. It has durable leaves that fall only once every two years.
Thriving in cool climates and sandy soil, cranberry plants are grown in specially designed basins. In three years, they begin to produce fruit in sufficient quantities for harvesting.
DID YOU KNOW?
Contrary to popular belief, cranberries are not grown in water. They are actually the fruit of a climbing vine-like plant that grows in open air.
When large-scale cultivation began, the cranberry’s natural buoyancy was leveraged to facilitate the harvesting process. Indeed, cranberries contain four inner air pockets, which contain its seeds, and are covered by very tough skin that easily resists the elements and impacts. These innate properties make cranberries very well suited to harvest by flooding.
Each cranberry field is surrounded by man-made levees 4 to 6 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) high. When the fall harvest comes, growers flood their fields. The fruit is then picked mechanically to avoid harming the vines. The berries, now freed from their stalks, float freely to the surface. The wind and booms direct all berries to one corner of the field, where they are finally pumped into trucks for transportation to a receiving station.
At this stage, cranberries are washed, stripped of their leaves and stems, and sorted under various grades, according to their colour and overall condition. They are then shipped in frozen containers and processed throughout the year.