First tomato crop at Sterling Suffolk to be planted in December

Sterling Suffolk, the new tomato nursery being built at Great Blakenham in Suffolk, says that it is on track to plant the first crops this winter with a view to harvesting the first on-the-vine tomatoes from mid-February 2019.

The first 5.6 ha phase of what is eventually intended to be an 17 ha site, including glasshouses, packing facilities and offices, is now well under construction and according to the company the 8.3 m tall structure will be ‘the most environmentally efficient glasshouse in the UK.’

Originally the nursery planned to use surplus heat from a new waste disposal incinerator being built nearby, but in March 2016 it said that government changes to the Renewable Heat Incentive meant that this option could not be investigated immediately.

Sterling Suffolk Ltd Director Cliff Matthews told the Ipswich Star: ““This is agriculture on an industrial scale. There is an art and science to growing tomatoes and we have a very good expert involved, Richard Lewis, one of the best in the UK. We aim to produce 50,000 vines per week. It is more about the taste than the quantity. These will be top of the range quality.”

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The post First tomato crop at Sterling Suffolk to be planted in December appeared first on Hort News on 18 July 2018.

Organic sector needs to rethink farmer engagement

The organic sector needs to change the way it engages with farmers, consumers and policy makers, according to one of the sector’s leading lights.

Roger Kerr, chief executive of organic licensing body OF&G, said organic farming offered major opportunities to businesses post-Brexit, but that too many years of criticising other production systems meant the sector had not received the positive attention it deserved.

He made his comments at an OF&G Conference on 3 July, adding that while organic production could deliver environmental and public goods, which should put it “at the heart of the mix” of post-Brexit farming policy discussions, it wasn’t been perceived in this way by policy makers and the wider agricultural sector.

“Part of that is because organic has become a loaded word,” he said. “We need to change things. We need to start engaging, sharing, and change the record if organic is to be part of the UK’s domestic agricultural policy.

“We also need to talk about ecological innovation alongside technical innovation, which is an area we haven’t really started to mine as far as government is concerned. We need to place organic in the centre of that to help drive that innovation.”

Photo Credit: Organic Farmers & Growers

The post Organic sector needs to rethink farmer engagement appeared first on Hort News on 18 July 2018.

Scottish soft fruit growers say produce being wasted due to lack of pickers

Scottish soft fruit growers in Perthshire and Angus are seeing perfectly good produce left behind on bushes due to a shortage of pickers, just as demand peaks during one of the UK’s hottest summers in forty years.

As well as the unprecedented demand, the weather has lead to high yields of fruit which is ripening extremely quickly. These factors, when added to the ongoing labour crisis has created perfect storm which has seen fruit go to waste.

General Manager of Angus Soft Fruits, William Houston, told The Courierthat most producers were “just about” coping, but said that most fields weren’t getting a final pick over to clear up any last fruit.

“The other big issue is that the standard of workers from Eastern Europe isn’t as good as it used to be,” he added. “If we had the same standard as even two years ago they’d all be relishing the busyness, working their guts out picking huge volumes of fruit and everyone would be happy. But there is a huge difference between the best workers who can pick 20kgs an hour and the worst at only 8kg an hour.”

Peter Marshall Fruit at Alyth said it had left 15 tonnes of strawberries and five tonnes of raspberries to rot last week because of a combination of too few pickers and an unusually long period of sunshine which meant the fruit ripened quickly. “The fruit is ripening so fast, by the time the pickers get to the end of a drill they need to start all over again,” commented the firm’s Meg Marshall.

Photo Credit: Claudette Gallant / Public Domain Pictures

The post Scottish soft fruit growers say produce being wasted due to lack of pickers appeared first on Hort News on 18 July 2018.

Unique R Series scraped surface heat exchanger solves viscous product challenges

Different materials need different types of heat exchanger. For the simplest fluids such as water and milk, plate heat exchangers are often sufficient, but as products become more challenging (for example more viscous, or containing particles), then different types of tubular and scraped surface heat exchangers are required. For those products with extremely high fouling potential, or those which benefit from constant agitation (for example to keep solid particles in suspension), then the HRS R Series of rotating scraped surface heat exchangers is ideal.

Designed for both sanitary and industrial applications, the R Series from HRS Heat Exchangers uses a rotary scraper rod which is capable of reaching velocities of 300 rpm, providing high levels of shear and mixing at the heat transfer surface which dramatically increases heat transfer rates. This makes it particularly suitable for challenging heat transfer applications, such as those where the product has the potential to crystallise during processing or where aeration is required.

The scraper rod features both a helical mixing spiral (which reduces the pressure drop in the tube) and a series of scraper blades. Together these provide a continuous scraping action which mixes highly viscous products and reduces fouling. The unique design enables high viscosity products to be pumped with reduced back pressure and lower energy use, in a compact unit which features a much smaller footprint than traditional heat exchangers for similar applications.

A unique gearbox design not only reduces noise, but also allows multiple tubes to be fitted inside a single shell from a single electrical drive, further increasing the available heat transfer area within the same shell footprint and aiding maintenance. Cleaning and maintenance is further improved by the unique sealing system used in the R Series which allows individual tubes to be removed for easy servicing and replacement if necessary.

Thanks to its helical spiral, in many applications the R Series can also be run in reverse, enabling much valuable product to be recovered before routine cleaning or product change-over without the need for additional pigging or flushing systems. Not only does this reduce costs and complexity, but saving product adds dollars to the bottom line.

HRS International Sales & Marketing Director Matt Hale comments: “Normally, when processing viscous or sticky products such as honey, syrups and purées, a certain amount will adhere to surfaces. This greatly reduces heat transfer, meaning that longer exposure is required to compensate. With its clever scraper design the R Series overcomes this problem, and also reduces product  losses which can soon add up. For example, product lost during processing is estimated to account for 3% of total losses in the US dairy industry. The R Series can be emptied of the majority of the product without the need for any additional pumps or pressure systems, reducing both capital- and running-costs.

The HRS R Series is available in two lengths (1 and 2 meters) and with one-, three- or six-tube options providing a range of surface areas between 0.35 and 4.2 m2. For larger installations multiple units can be combined in series and units can be mounted horizontally or vertically and internal baffles can be specified within the tubes to overcome situations where shell-side flow may be limited. This also means that it is possible to obtain complete counter-current flow between the shell-side and tube-side fluids for multi-pass designs. In other situations, such as condensing (e.g. stem heating) and evaporating (e.g. ammonia cooling) the baffles are not used, in order to improve performance.

The R Series is suitable for a range of uses in the food processing and cosmetic industries, including heating, cooling, pasteurisation, crystallisation and evaporation.

For some materials, such as curd production in the dairy sector and many concentrated products and creams, increased turbulence is beneficial,” adds Matt. “With its small footprint, ease of maintenance and the ability to recover product, in these situations the unique design of the HRS R Series offers a number of advantages over other heat exchangers on the market.

The post Unique R Series scraped surface heat exchanger solves viscous product challenges appeared first on HRS Heat Exchangers on 19 June 2018.

New glasshouse at STC

Stockbridge Technology Centre has added to its research facilities with a new 384 m2 three-zone glasshouse from Bom and Ebtech Glasshouses.

The new building forms part of the CHAP (Centre for Crop Health & Protection) Innovation Centre portfolio, funded by Innovate UK, and will create new facilities for evaluating biopesticides under semi-commercial conditions. It includes a suite of deep-water hydroponic units, allowing customized trials on a range of crops.

The 4 m high glasshouse (at the gutter) consists of three 12.8 m wide zones. The Bom group glasshouse is also fitted with aphid-proof netting on the roof vents, horizontal roof screens and a hot water piped heating system, with a Priva control system. “We can offer large or small scale projects to our clients, offering bespoke projects to the highest of standards required,” commented Ebtech managing director Tony Walker.

Photo Credit: Ebtech

The post New glasshouse at STC appeared first on Hort News on 12 July 2018.

Westland reveals automated lettuce greenhouse

Evesham-based Westland Nurseries, the UK’s largest grower of micro leaves and specialty edibles, has revealed details of its latest 1.4 ha fully automated lettuce greenhouse which has been built by Dutch company Certhon.

In an online video, Peter Taylor, General Manager of Westland Nurseries, explained, “Two years ago we decided to grow into some new markets for us of growing lettuce. The aim of the lettuce that we grow is to sell it into the premium markets. Obviously growing in a hydroponic and controlled environment we are looking for a much cleaner, more controlled, year-round grown lettuce.” He added that the quality of the product is achieved by various details, including, “The multi-gutter system for the lettuce, the glasshouses, and the lighting we use to deliver those products.”

The new greenhouse includes is 1.4 hectares, and includes insulated sandwich panels on the lower levels, with ultra-low iron glass for the roof and sides. It uses a mobile gutter system, together with an energy screen and hybrid SON-T and LED lighting system. It also makes the most of a new CHP system which was installed to feed the entire Westland site.

Photo Credit: YouTube / Certhon

The post Westland reveals automated lettuce greenhouse appeared first on Hort News on 12 July 2018.

New emissions targets could cripple farming

Farming leaders across the UK have warned that the industry must not be sacrificed in order to meet greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets in the wake of the latest report from the Committee on Climate Change.

In its latest publication, Reducing UK emissions – 2018 Progress Report to Parliament, amongst other things, the Committee warned that large reductions in emissions from power generation had masked a lack of progress in other sectors, including agriculture, and that the sector now accounted for 10 per cent of total UK GHG emissions.

Excluding transport, agricultural greenhouse gas emissions were 46.5 MtCO2e in 2016, broadly unchanged from 2015. Emissions are 16 per cent lower than in 1990, but there has been no progress in reducing emissions in this sector since 2008. Around half come from livestock, and a quarter from soil management, with the rest coming from manure management and machinery.

However, Jim McLaren of Quality Meat Scotland said, “Setting a legal net zero target now would require 16,000 ha of woodland planting per year, the use of GM crop technology and zero livestock production.” He added that current methods for assessing agricultural GHG emissions are “not fit for purpose.”

The post New emissions targets could cripple farming appeared first on Hort News on 9 July 2018.

British farmers need to keep up to speed on CAP reform

Farm business advisors at Strutt & Parker have warned UK farmers to continue to be aware of proposed changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) even as the UK prepares for Brexit.

The firm recently highlighted some of the key proposed changes to the CAP for 2021 to 2027 in a briefing paper published on its website. Amongst the key proposals is ‘greater power for Member States to design their own policies, under both Pillars 1 and 2’ which will see ‘each country producing a ‘CAP Strategic Plan’, which sets out how it will meet nine EU-wide objectives.’

In terms of funding, direct payments will be capped at €100,000 (£87,000) and payments above €60,000 will be subject to regression reductions. Overall the budget for Pillar 1 payments will see an 11 per cent reduction in real terms, while Pillar 2 will see a cut of 27 per cent.

Chair of Strutt & Parker’s Farm Research Group, George Chichester said, “These changes are important to the UK as it is still unclear when a British farming policy will apply from, given major uncertainties remaining in the UK-EU withdrawal negotiations, and so we may have to comply with these rules until our British policy is ready.”

The post British farmers need to keep up to speed on CAP reform appeared first on Hort News on 9 July 2018.

Lettuce supplies short due to heat

Lettuce growers in the UK and further afield have warned of shortages as the hot weather and lack of rain continue for the foreseeable future.

With this summer already being claimed as the hottest since 1976, wholesale prices for lettuce and some brassicas have spiked, while home-grown and imported fruit such as strawberries and melons are also attracting high prices.

“Cabbages and icebergs are suffering because they’re getting cooked in the field, prices are tremendously high. The price of lettuce has gone from £4.80 per box to £9.60,” Chris Hutchinson, owner of Arthur Hutchinson Ltd at New Spitalfields Market.

Spokesman for the British Leafy Salad Growers Association, Dieter Lloyd, said that record sales of 18 million heads of lettuce (a 40 per cent increase on the previous year) together with hot conditions which were preventing growth could lead to a shortage of the crop.

“While it is great news that leafy salad sales are up around 40 per cent across all retailers, that’s just half the story. The record temperatures have stopped the UK lettuce crop growing. When the mercury hits 30 degrees Celsius lettuces can’t grow,” he said. In all of the major growing areas, from Cupar in Fife, through Preston, Lancs, to Ely in East Anglia and Chichester, Sussex, the hot weather has affected all our growers and we may be seeing some gaps on retailers’ shelves in the next two weeks as the heat wave continues.”

The post Lettuce supplies short due to heat appeared first on Hort News on 9 July 2018.

Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’

Farmer suppliers to the Co-op have planted more than 1,000 miles of hedgerows to form part of a network of ‘bee’ roads across the UK.

Using its new environmental-impact measurement tool Enviro-Map, the Co-op says that seven different producer groups have created the following environmental features:

  • 1000 miles (1633 km) of hedgerows which are actively managed across the farming groups
  • 1,400 hectares of native, coniferous and broadleaf woodland
  • 455 hectares of watercourses and wetlands
  • 116 hectares of wildflower meadows
  • 100 devices, such as bird boxes, bee hives and beetle banks, on farms to encourage wildlife

Matt Hood, Co-op’s trading director, said: “The need to create a more sustainable approach to farming and food production is just as important as producing high-quality; fairly-priced food and we can only achieve this with regular and reliable measurement of our producers. We are delighted to see that in year one alone, they are already offsetting their farming practises by contributing heavily to improved biodiversity levels which are so utterly critical to the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Co-op suppliers set up ‘bee roads’ appeared first on Hort News on 21 June 2018.