The world's southernmost cherries are produced using artificial light

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The world's southernmost cherries are produced using artificial light

Just a few miles away from the Patagonia National Park, in the far southern Chilean town of Chile Chico, near the border with Argentina, cherries are being produced under some very particular conditions. 

In this small town along the Carretera Austral, there is no natural heat to produce cherries, which means producers must create a microclimate to grow the fruit, protecting it from the cold and heavy winds. spoke with Oscar Aliaga, one of the few cherry advisors working in the region to learn more about this particular project. During Cherry Tech 2023 on July 29, Aliaga was recognized for his contributions to the cherry industry throughout his long career. 

“Chile Chico is a unique place in the world where the southernmost cherry in the world is being produced under very unique conditions. Since there is no natural heat, fruit is grown using artificial light, so it is a different fruit than you get out of the conventional growing regions in the country (central Chile),” says Aliaga. 

Aliaga believes that the distinctive feature of this production process has not been exploited as a center of origin of the fruit.

“We have seen that cherry from Chile Chico is different, it has more dry matter and achieves very good calibers. It is a very good fruit,” adds Aliaga. 

Production challenges

When asked about the logistics of producing fruit so far south, in such a remote place, Aliaga agrees that: “Chile Chico is very remote and weather conditions are very adverse.”

Contrary to what many would think, in that particular location there is a very benign microclimate with regard to rainfall. It doesn't rain. 

However, “there are daily winds of around 43 to 55 miles per hour, which are many times freezing and frequent throughout the year, which forces producers to control those conditions.”

Even though the region has the potential to grow all late varieties, the remoteness of Chile Chico makes it very difficult to obtain supplies since they must be brought from central Chile, around 1,200 miles away. 

“This makes production more expensive because labor must also be brought in from central Chile,” says Aliaga. 

Regardless of the challenging conditions, in 2022 there were 2,400 tons of cherries exported from Chile Chico.

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