(UPDATED COVERAGE, April 28) A Florida grower-shipper is marketing pesticide residue-free blueberries at a price comparable to conventional blueberries.

UPDATED: Wish Farms rolls out pesticide residue-free blueberries

Plant City-based Wishnatzki Farms began shipping pesticide residue-free blueberries from the Plant City area in mid-April, said Gary Wishnatzki, the company’s president.

"Pesticide residue-free" means that a minimal amount of pesticides were used on crops, and that on the final product, no pesticide residues were found (less than .01 parts per million), said Amber Kosinsky, Wishnatzki Farms' marketing director.

The berries are available in light volumes at select Eastern retailers, but as volumes increase, so will distribution, Wishnatzki said.

Grower partners in Georgia, Michigan, Chile and other regions have agreed to grow pesticide residue-free berries for Wishnatzki’s Wish Farms label, Wishnatzki said.

“It’s an exciting time for us,” he said. “When you talk to consumers, they’re excited, too. A lot of people want to buy organic but they can’t afford it.”

Wishnatzki Farms will be able to keep the price of its pesticide residue-free blueberries at or near the price of conventional berries because blueberries are relatively easy to grow with minimal pesticides, Wishnatzki said.

“A lot of blueberry growers are already doing it, they’re just not marketing it as such,” he said.

While some growers will continue to use more pesticides, Wishnatzki said the majority of the company’s partners have agreed to grow with minimal pesticides, though there may be fields or seasons where they still use more pesticides.

“This will be a big percentage of our offerings,” he said.

While it’s relatively easy to grow blueberries with minimal pesticides, it’s harder to grow them without non-organic fertilizers, Wishnatzki said.

Wish Farms’ pesticide residue-free blueberry packs will include the logo of Scientific Certification Systems, the third-party sustainability and environmental certification provider that is certifying the Wishnatzki berries.

Wishnatzki Farms also has experimented with growing strawberries with minimal pesticides, and could market them in the future, but Wishnatzki said it’s harder to grow strawberries with minimal pesticides.