Monthly Archives: September 2015

Koppert acquires Certis beneficial organisms business

Following the decision by Certis Europe to divest itself of its commercial sales business of beneficials in certain European countries, Koppert recently acquired the business for the UK, France and Italy. Certis says it will continue to sell its beneficial organism products elsewhere and develop integrated crop protection programmes for its customers in its other markets.

‘The acquisition of Certis Europe’s beneficials sales business in the UK, France and Italy, fits in well with our long-term strategy to further develop biological solutions for these important agricultural and horticultural countries,’ says Koppert Biological Systems’ Managing Director, Henri Oosthoek.

‘The negotiations with Certis were fruitful and coincide with Koppert’s mission to make agriculture healthier, safer and more productive for the better health of people and the planet. The transfer of business is underway and customers in these countries have been notified,’ he added.

Certis Europe is a leader in integrated pest management for the horticultural and specialty crop sectors. Its CEO, Mark Waltham, said: ‘We are excited to find in Koppert a potential partner that is the market leader in beneficial production and development and is therefore best placed to build on the excellent customer relationships Certis and BCP have developed with beneficial products over the last 20 years.’

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Digital pest scouting replaces counting of sticky traps

Dutch company Crop Watch has been named in a list of top innovators amongst SMEs in the country after it developed a technology to accurately and quickly measure crop pests.

The Scoutbox, developed by the company in Wageningen identifies and counts harmful insects in fruit and vegetable cultivation. The machine consists of a camera that captures images of sticky traps hanging in the greenhouse or in the field. Special software counts the number of insects and analyzes the pattern on the sticky trap. The specific characteristics of different insects mean that it is possible for the software to distinguish different types. With the data, the grower can easily keep track of the insect population and intervene if necessary.

The company says more information about a possible commercial launch of the product, which has the potential to reduce labour and standardise reporting, will be forthcoming later in the autumn.

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Wilsons invests in Irish potatoes

Leading Northern Irish potato packer Wilson’s Country, based at Craigavon in County Armagh, has installed new cooling technology on its production line as part of an investment programme to capitalise on new market opportunities in the Republic of Ireland.

The company says that it will invest £1.5 million to improve production for the catering sector throughout Ireland, a sector which now accounts for 40 per cent of its total business. Lewis Cunningham, managing director of Wilson’s Country, told reporters, “We have made this investment in cooling technology to give our customers in foodservice a peeled product with a good shelf-life that will cook very well.

“We’ve also automated our peeling process and camera sorting to increase efficiency and maintain downward pressure on costs. The investment is designed to increase our ability to compete for new business in foodservice in the Republic.”

The new cooling system, together with new washing equipment will result in a fresher product with more consistent quality says the company.

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AHDB Horticulture looking for panel members

AHDB Horticulture is looking for growers or their technical staff willing to become members of its Panels which help the levy body channel funds into research and development and knowledge transfer activities which are relevant and fully supported by growers.

Each Panel is made up of elected members (growers or technical staff within larger businesses) who directly represent the interests of the horticultural industry, together with scientific advisors who underpin the quality of project proposals brought to the Panels for funding.

To be eligible for election, candidates must belong to a horticultural levy paying business (either as the levy paying owner or an employee). Elected panel members will sit on the panel for a three year period starting on 1 January following their election. During their term of office, members must remain a levy payer (or a payroll employee of a levy payer) and members may stand for a maximum of two consecutive three year terms (i.e. six years in total).

The Panels cover the following crop sectors: Field Vegetables; Hardy Nursery Stock; Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers; Protected Edibles and Mushrooms; Soft Fruit and Tree Fruit (including stone fruit). Each Panel represent industry views and the interests of all growers and makes recommendations for project funding and provide a rapid response to urgent industry needs, as well as other activities.

To view the full eligibility criteria, learn more about the operations and code of conduct for panel members, or to apply, visit

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European potato crop below average

According to the North-western European Potato Growers Foundation (NEPG), this year’s ware harvest for the group, which includes the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands, will be around 24.5 million tonnes.

The figure is 14.1 per cent below last year and 2.9 per cent less than the five year average figure. It is also below NPEG’s previous forecast in June. The prediction, which is based on national sampling, suggests average yields are lower at 46.5 t/ha compared to 52.1 t/ha last year. This, coupled with a 3.7 per cent fall in area to 527,110 hectares, has resulted in reduced production.

At a national level, overall yields in Belgium show the largest declines, while much of Germany, France and the Dutch polders appear to have near average yields. NPEG said that results of crop sampling were not available for the UK the 5-year average was used in the overview. For the first time, potato acreage in Great Britain has decreased below 100,000 hectares, a drop of 7.7% compared to last season and 10.5% below the 5-year average acreage.

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European plant raisers tour British growers

The British Growers Association recently hosted a visit by a group of European plant raisers to show them various horticulture businesses around the south coast of England.

As well as visits to growers, including Vitacress VHB, Tinwood Estate, Tangmere Airfield Nursery and Hill Brothers, the visitors also toured Sainsbury’s distribution depot at Basingstoke, and Syngenta’s International Research Centre at Jealotts Hill.

“A jam packed couple of days ensured that the guests left having had access to some of the largest and most modern horticulture businesses in the UK. The British Growers Association would like to thank everyone who kindly hosted the group for what was an extremely enjoyable trip,” said BGA’s Julia Hall-Jones.

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Onion season 7-10 days later than normal

According to reports the UK onion harvest has been around a week later than average, with August drilled crops still being lifted into early September.

Jayne Dyas from British Growers told reporters that it was still too early to confirm crop volumes as grading wasn’t complete and many crops still had to reach stores and be cured, but at the end of August the latest estimate of UK production was 466,000 tonnes.

The cool spring resulted in some crops maturing later than normal, although the dry spell from June to July, and later cooler, wetter weather had helped bulbs to bulk up increasing overall yields from earlier estimates. Bulb size has been described as variable to date and the quality is currently unknown until crops are safely dried and in store.

According to Jayne, demand this year has been static, but over the last few years consumption of onions has increased in the UK.

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EU agriculture committee opposes national GM bans

On Thursday 3 September the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament rejected the Commission’s draft law that would give member states the power to restrict or prohibit the use of EU-approved GM food or feed on their territory. It fears that arbitrary national bans could distort competition on the EU’s single market and jeopardise the Union’s food production sectors which are heavily dependent on imports of GM feed.

The agriculture committee’s opinion, adopted by 28 votes in favour to eight against, with six abstentions, will now be scrutinised by the environment committee, which has the lead on this file, before the Parliament as a whole votes on the matter.

“Today’s vote in the agriculture committee sends a clear message: the Commission’s proposal to allow member states to decide whether or not to restrict or ban the use of GM food and feed on their territory must be rejected. We have not been building the EU’s single market to let arbitrary political decisions distort it completely,” said the draftsman of the opinion, Albert Dess (EPP, DE).

“The Commission’s approach is completely unrealistic. We have many sectors in the EU that rely to a great extent on imports of GM feed and would not be able to survive if it is banned. If we allowed this, then all animal food production in the EU would be at stake, which could make us much more dependent on food imports from third countries that do not necessarily respect our high production standards. And we certainly want to avoid this,” he added.

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Sainsbury’s calls for farming apprentices

With the farming industry requiring 60,000 new employees by 2020 simply to replace existing farmers, Sainsbury’s is calling on young adults to consider a career in farming as it opens applications for its horticultural and agricultural apprenticeship programme.

The Sainsbury’s apprenticeship programme, which is run in partnership with Staffline, gives young people aged 16 and above the chance to work with some of the retailer’s most progressive food suppliers, many of whom use the latest innovations and technology in the sector – from learning the digital infrastructure of glasshouse computer systems to managing crop growth through the use of drones and smart phone apps.

Every 12 weeks apprentices visit different growers in Sainsbury’s supply chain, while in between visits they learn the practical aspects of their chosen career from harvesting; identifying and dealing with pests, diseases and disorders; planting; monitoring moisture and nutrients; pruning and use of state-of-the art equipment and digital tools.

Robert Honeysett, Sainsbury’s Horticultural Manager, said, “Our research reveals there’s a significant gap between what young people think of farming, and some of the jobs that are available today. We’re passionate in playing our part to support the future of British farming, and help attract young people into the industry.

“A third of those surveyed assume they need a family connection to break into the sector, which isn’t the case. We hope our apprenticeship programme will help show that there are a number of alternative routes into farming, and we’d encourage school leavers and young professionals to consider it.  It’s one of the most dynamic industries in the UK to work in.”

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Albert Bartlett expands in US

UK potato producer Albert Bartlett is expanding its US operations thanks in part to celebrity endorsement of its Rooster potatoes.

According to a report they are now the favourite potato of Colorado’s Denver Bronco American football team, with crops now grown in the state as well as three other states. “This is Ireland’s favourite potato,” says David Cross, Bartlett’s Scottish-born U.S. vice president of sales and marketing. “We decided to develop for flavour, rather than farmers’ yield. It’s the big thing that people forget. Food’s got to taste good.”

In the United States, Bartlett’s potatoes are available in stores including Whole Foods, Costco and King Soopers.

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