An innovative prototype for the cultivation of saffron
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world. Italy is one of the most important producers (Veneto and Abruzzo regions, Tuscany, Umbria, Sardinia, and Tuscia Viterbo) with a quantity varying from 450 to 600 kg, occupying about 50/55 hectares. The country with the highest production of this fragrant “gold” is Iran, supplying 90% of the saffron consumed in the world. While the plant is a valuable ingredient in the kitchen, it can also declare other uses, starting from dyeing leather and fabrics, to uses in the medical field, as it has remarkable narcotic and relaxing properties. Its high price is mainly due to the harvesting procedure, which is completely manual, to avoid damaging the plant. To obtain a kilo of saffron it is necessary to collect about 170.000 flowers in a limited period of time. However, also manually transplanting saffron bulbs to the ground has a significant cost. The first Italian prototype of saffron bulbs transplanting machinery has recently been tested in Monselice. The Italian Saffron Producers Association in collaboration with the F.lli Spedo a Castagnaro based company, has tested the prototype at the farm named “La saggezza della terra” which is owned by the F.lli Giraldin of Monselice. The farm machinery company Spedo brothers, operating in Italy and abroad with its own models, has provided a transplanter for potatoes, and contributed to the modifications to adapt it to the saffron bulbs. The machine was particularly flexible, both on flat ground and on trunks of different heights. There are some details to be optimized - say the technicians who followed the project - but this innovation will help a lot in the work all those who today cultivate this precious spice.
by Marcello Ortenzi