ITALY: Construction of a new reservoir is helping a thriving Italian fruit industry to blossom
by John Bayliss
Apples have been cultivated in northern Italy’s Trento province for more than 2,000 years. The fruit growers are mostly small-scale, local producers whose family businesses date back centuries. The floor of the Val di Non Valley lies 500m above sea level, rising to 1,000m, and has a microclimate that makes the local apples unique, colourful and particularly crunchy.
In the 1980s, the growers realised that the market was being flooded with fruit that was not actually grown in the region. So the valley’s producers decided to register a common name for their output to protect authentic production. ‘Melinda’ became the collective mark and a cooperative association took ownership of the Melinda brand, although policies on the management and development of cooperatives remained under the control of the fruit growers themselves.
The move established the apples on the market and has led to growth in the region that is envied elsewhere in Italy at a time of economic stagnation in many parts of the country.
However, development in the agro-industry has also brought with it challenges for production – not least, the need for reliable and regular sources of water during the growing season.
To meet some of those demands, two huge reservoirs are being constructed on the mountainside overlooking the Val di Non apple orchards. Construction began in 2010 on the first in the ‘Seven Larches’ area which will hold 300,000 cubic liters of water when the main works have been completed in 2015.
Carlo Brentari, president of the Miglioramento Fondiario Consortium, a private-legal entity to improve land in the region, says the project is operating on a broad scale. “The task is to create an artificial lake that will be dedicated to the apple fields in this valley.”
And this is where a fleet of Volvo excavators are adding their might and muscle, shifting around 400,000m3 of earth to make way for the new water feature. The water will be channeled into the reservoir from a mountain source 1,100m above sea level. The force of gravity will then create a regulated flow through a pipeline to the valley floor’s apple orchards.
“During 2015, the focus will be on testing – the basin will need to be filled and emptied to make sure everything is working properly,” explains Brentari. “The team expects it to be fully operational by March/April 2016.” Three Volvo excavators from the EC480E series are busy with this part of the project, one of which was purchased late in 2014.
FIT FOR PURPOSE
This latest model is an exceptionally efficient piece of equipment that boasts Volvo’s unique ECO mode which reduces flow and pressure losses in the hydraulic system. There is also the sturdy stage IV/Tier 4 Final engine and a reinforced undercarriage. Finally, the cab’s ergonomic design, sporting well-positioned controls, gives the operators a more comfortable working environment.
These three machines – the new EC480E excavator working alongside an EC480D and an EC250D – extract material from the basin and transfer it to dumper trucks for transportation. Some of these earthworks are used for landscaping around the reservoir while other loads are taken away for processing into other construction materials.
A lot of repurposing takes place at the headquarters of the construction management company, Misconel, in the Fiemme Valley. Once again, Volvo vehicles are much in evidence, including an L250G wheel loader and an EC300D excavator. The company’s owner, Giulio Misconel, says he’s very pleased with the Volvo CE equipment.
“The desire was to have efficient machinery to accomplish the project in the required time, which is why we have many pieces of Volvo equipment. We also decided to buy new machinery from the latest series – the new E-series excavators meet the project needs as they are quicker and have lower fuel consumption compared to other machinery in the same category.”
Matching Volvo’s high values for quality, safety and the environment, Misconel says he is highly conscious of the World Heritage listing that has been awarded to the region by UNESCO. The Fiemme Valley has played host to the world ski-cross championships on three occasions, and Misconel has been involved in developing new pistes, jumps and other tourist facilities. “In everything we do, the aim is to rebuild a better-quality environment to preserve the existing natural setting,” he explains.
Ecological sustainability has been key to the success of the region’s apple-growing industry. Every year, more than 300,000 tonnes of Val di Non apples are harvested. That represents more than 60% of the apples produced in the Trentino region, 10% of the total Italian production, and 5% of all the apples grown in Europe.
Around one-quarter of the Melinda apples grown here are exported. In turn, this has seen the apple consortium’s turnover grow to an annual sum approaching 160 million euros. The Seven Larches reservoir and its associated water basin will help to secure that success in the future.