Daniel Silva and Fabian Robles

BioCitrus Chile

Hi, I'm Daniel Silva, 33 years old. I grow organic lemons and avocados in Chile. Together with my colleague Fabian Robles we founded BioCitrus Chile three years ago. I focus on the orchard while Fabian takes care of the export. Our lemon orchards are approximately a two hour drive south of Santiago, near the village of Coinco.

Our orchards lie at an altitude of 300 to 400 metres. The clayey soil is very fertile and thanks to the dry and warm climate, conditions for organic fruit cultivation are ideal. We even have two harvest seasons for the lemons: summer fruit from October to March and winter fruit from May till September. We can control this through pruning.
Already in 1998 when I was in college, I choose to specialize in organic agriculture. Since then I have always grown organic avocado's and since 2008 I have focussed on lemon cultivation. We have converted this orchard to organic starting in 2011 and this year we will be fully organically certified. We are among the first growers in Chili to export organic lemons!
Unfortunately there is not much organic cultivation in this region, the 6th district. The use of chemicals is a serious problem, too many children are born with malformations. With organic agriculture we offer an alternative. Many local people are eager to work for us, because we are the only ones who are not using chemicals.

 

Interview with Daniel Silva en Fabian Robles

Fabian, as a fruit trader, how did you get involved in organic cultivation?
"I have been working in the fruit business since 1993, but I've only started to work with organic products six or seven years ago. It's a pleasant way of working. The organic sector is much smaller and therefore as a producer, you have a better position: you're less disposable. The relations between buyers and sellers are more sustainable."

And how did you become an organic grower, Daniel?
At university I studied organic agriculture, which was still a very new thing in Chile at the time. After my graduation I got a job supervising a large organic avocado farm. Later I acquired my own avocado orchard in the 5th district, near the town of San Felipe. There I work with woofers from all over the word, young people who travel around and work on organic farms. In that way, organic is really a lifestyle." 

What do you like most about this job, Fabian?
"I love the dynamics of working with a living product. Nature is always mutable, the market changes, every year the situation is different than the year before. That gives me adrenaline. It's always stimulating. We know that the harvest starts in May and that the first fruit arrives in June by boat. But apart from that everything is unsure until the last moment; and that makes it really interesting."

Daniel, in 2008 you started to grow organic citrus. How did it work out?
"In 2008 we were able to start growing on this location. These hills were developed 12 years ago, and irrigation was put in place. Before that it was a natural hill with all kinds of thorny bushes. When we started converting to organic, it had been managed pesticide-free for at least 4 year. Nevertheless the beginning was hard, we were troubled by plagues. Now the natural balance is better and we're doing well. With the help of Nature & More we are even going to develop  a new part of the hill for organic lemon production."

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