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Fruit growers need look no further than the beverage aisle at their local convenience store for inspiration.

That’s according to Jeff Cleveringa, one of the speakers today (Wednesday) at the International Fruit Tree Association conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Consumers will not tire of new fruit varieties anytime soon, said Cleveringa of Starr Ranch Growers/Oneonta of Wenatchee, Washington.

“Look at what the beverage aisle has done in the past 10 years,” said. “Consumers like options.”

Cleveringa told the roughly 400 conference attendees that he never stops looking for new varieties, and would try growing a blue apple if he could. People will buy them as long as they are of high quality, he said.

Cleveringa discussed many other tips and tidbits for his presentation “The Orchard Technology Generation.”

Among them:

  • $300-apiece soil moisture monitors that warn his orchard managers of drought stress.
  • Experiments with handheld string thinners powered by a battery carried around on a fanny pack.
  • Trellis engineering trials. “The right trellis is one that doesn’t fall down,” he said after showing pictures of windstorm damage.
  • Hail and shade netting
  • Drone sprayingIFTA conference logo

Today was the final day for conference proper. Thursday, some of the group will attend optional post-conference tours of orchards, processing facilities and research stations around northwest Michigan.