Italian farm abuzz over organic tomatoes

The Italian tomato is prized around the world, but its reputation has soured in recent years over reports of mafia infiltration, slave labour and toxic fires that poison water sources. Southern Europe's biggest hydroponics farm is out to change all t
PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The Italian tomato is prized around the world, but its reputation has soured in recent years over reports of mafia infiltration, slave labour and toxic fires that poison water sources. Southern Europe's biggest hydroponics farm is out to change all that, by growing pesticide-free crops in environmentally friendly greenhouses - and getting bees to do the hard work. Set among organic vineyards in Tuscany in Italy, Sfera Agricola was launched in 2015 by Mr Luigi Galimberti as a response to United Nations' warnings that food production will need to become more efficient and less environmentally damaging to feed a growing global population. Mr Galimberti's farm produces a kilogram of tomatoes or lettuce using just two litres of water, compared with 75 litres in fields, he said. It relies on natural organisms to control pests and diseases. "We use bumblebees to pollinate the flowers, and we release a series of insect predators to combat the insects we fear," Mr Galimberti said, adding that it had led to the creation of new bee colonies in a boost for the local ecosystem.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2019, with the headline 'Italian farm abuzz over organic tomatoes'. Print Edition | Subscribe