Category Archives: HortNews

Berry Gardens aims to double business

Berry Gardens chief executive Jacqui Green has revealed that the soft- and stonefruit cooperative plans to double its turnover to £700 million by the mid-2020s.

Her comments came during a discussion of the business and the overall industry with FJP editor Michael Barker at the FPJ Live event in Coventry last week. The expansion, which comes along with previously announced plans for new and improved production facilities, is part of the company’s PICK initiative, which stands for People; Innovation; Collaboration and Knowledge.

“We’ve got some really ambitious growth plans, and maybe Brexit might have a big influence on it, but we’re looking to double the size of the business by the mid-2020s,” said Jacqui. “We’d [previously]looked at the future and it wasn’t comfortable. A lot of growth has been grower-driven.”

She added that thanks to their healthy eating message, berries had the potential to compete with unhealthy confectionery and snacks and that this was where she saw most future growth in consumption coming from.

Photo Caption: Jacqui Green speaking at FPJ Live

Photo Credit: Richard Crowhurst

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UK potato harvesting described as ‘patchy’

The maincrop potato harvest is now well underway, although a mixture of very dry conditions and torrential rains are adding to what was already a ‘patchy’ and difficult situation for the crop.

One grower, Ben Sykes from North Yorkshire told Farmers Guardian that by 8 October they had harvested around 20 per cent of their 220 ha crop, compared with 40-50 per cent in an average year.

“They were planted a lot later because of a wet spring and it has been a stressful growing season with the heat. We’ve had to wait a long time for them to mature and now we are harvesting dangerously late,” he said.

Earlier this year AHDB Potatoes’ planting survey recorded a 3 per cent drop in area, making it the third lowest planting figure on record, while overall the North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) association estimates crop yields in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK will be 8 per cent below the five-year average at around 30-40 t/ha depending on irrigation and water availability.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Birmingham opens new wholesale market

Birmingham’s new integrated wholesale market, which is one of the largest in Europe, has been officially opened at a launch event on Friday 5 October.

The event was billed as a celebration of the market’s 850-year history, and saw traders joined in the new environment by a steel band, Chinese lion dance and television crew. Mark Tate, chairman of the Birmingham Wholesale Fresh Produce Association, told those at the event: “I’d like to thank all the traders who supported my decisions throughout the process, our belief has driven us to this magnificent building today. I have a request that goes out to all the people of Birmingham and the Midlands, we need your support, to keep buying our fruit and vegetables, and meat and fish from the wholesale market.”

Chris Taplee, of wholesaler Mack Birmingham, commented, “This place is magnificent, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’m now I’m looking forward to the next 30. Trade has picked up, we’re getting people from Wolverhampton now; someone from Liverpool came the other day. It’s the shot in the arm we needed.”

The new location on Nobel Way in Witton is how to almost 90 traders, including those selling meat poultry and fish as well as fresh produce, based around a large central covered avenue, together with warehouses, a cafe and management offices.

Photo Credit: Birmingham Wholesale Market

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New strategy launched for apple industry

English Apples & Pears (EAP) has unveiled a new strategy that it hopes will see the UK top fruit sector fulfil its potential over the next twelve years.

The Great British Apples strategy, which is presented in a video on the EAP website, includes a target to increase production and boost the market share of the UK crop from its current level of 42 per cent to 60 per cent by 2030.

EAP chair Ali Capper says in the film, “In our opinion there’s a massive opportunity for growth. With the right support from both government and retail there’s an opportunity to grow market share to 60 per cent by 2030. Everyone at English Apples & Pears is up for the challenge.”

Among the areas that the strategy wants to see improved are immigration policy, technology, investment in what consumers want, and telling the story of UK apples. “Our first priority is to work with the government to secure the immigration policies that our sector needs,” Capper said.

Speaking to journalist Fred Searle at the FPJ Live event in Coventry last week, Capper agreed that it was “quite a punchy” target, adding: “It doesn’t get more long term than planning orchards, and that long term nature means that we need a good relationship with retailers.”

Photo Credit: NFU

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New protection system for cherries comes to Europe

A new cherry protection system, which the manufacturers claim can be opened and closed in minutes, is heading to European orchards having been successfully used in Chile.

Wayki Solutions says that a single worker can cover, or remove, on hectare in just 20 minutes, much less time than is required with most other systems, including automated ones. The system uses a normal hand drill to turn the winding mechanism, which in turn opens and closes the covers, which sit above the existing orchard poles.

Cristián Lopez of Wayki Europe said, “Around the world, we are experiencing more and more severe and unexpected weather conditions. This has serious implications for the fruit business as it raises the possibility of events including rain and hail damaging fruit, and high winds damaging growing infrastructure such as poles and cables. Wayki is a very exciting development because it gives growers the control to cover and uncover their orchards and vineyards in a matter of minutes in response to these events.”

As well as cherries, the company believes that the cover system may have applications for crops including blueberries, apples and other soft fruit, and different types of cover can be fitted.

Photo Credit: pixabay

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Re-trial of Tesco executives begins this week

This week sees the re-trial of two former Tesco executives begin at Southwark Crown Court in London after their first trial in February was called off.

Christopher Bush, 52, former managing director of Tesco UK, and John Scouler, 50, former UK food commercial director, are both charged with one count of fraud by abuse of position and one count of false accounting. Both deny the charges.

The case resulted from an overstatement of Tesco’s profit forecast in 2014 which plunged the company into turmoil and led to several senior members of staff being suspended.

According to the legal indictment, Bush and Scouler concealed Tesco’s true financial position from its auditors and other employees between Feb. 1, 2014 and Sept. 23, 2014. Legal representatives for Bush and Scouler declined to comment ahead of the trial.

Photo Caption: Christopher Bush pictured during his time at Tesco.

Photo Credit: Adrian Brooks/Imagewise

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Produce Investments loses contract

Press reports suggest that major potato supplier Produce Investments, which owns Greenvale AP, Swancote Foods and The Jersey Royal Company, has lost one of its key contracts.

According to Food Manufacture, the unnamed customer plans to implement a ‘single supplier strategy’ and so Produce Investments will not be offered a new contract when its existing one expires next August, with product volume expected to be gradually phased over three years from that date.

A spokesman for Produce Investments said, “While naturally disappointed with the outcome of this decision, this is part of the ordinary course of business in the sector in which the company operates. The board will continue to work hard to drive new business and mitigate over time any negative impact this decision may have on the company’s operations.”

The news came just days before new Greenvale managing director Andy Clarkson, who has been promoted from customer operations director, was due to address the FPJ Live conference in Coventry. On his appointment, Mr Clarkson commented, “I am pleased to have the opportunity to continue the development of the Greenvale business. We have a great team internally and externally and I am very much looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

Last month Produce Investments accepted a £52.95 million takeover from Jersey-based investment company Bidco, which will delist the group from the stock market.

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New system improves blueberry production

Improving the drainage of container-grown blueberry crops can improve both fruit quality and yield according to the manufacturers of a new hydroponic tool.

The Spacer Hydropot system from Spanish company Hydroponic Systems improves root development, and therefore overall plant growth. It consists of a polypropylene gutter which raises the growing bag off the ground, and a 30×30 cm ‘tray’ which supports the bag. The system ensures air movement and drainage below the roots, while keeping them contained in the growing media.

“It allows blueberry growers to obtain all the advantages of our system: the optimum aeration between the substrate and drains, the prevention of root exit from the substrate and its contact with drainage,” explains Maria Gimenez Lopez from Hydroponic Systems. “Thanks to the easy installation and disinfection and the efficient drainage circulation, the diseases decrease – offering eventually a production that’s both higher in quality and quantity.

“This system evolved from systems having the pot resting directly on the ground to using different supports (such as polystyrene or bricks) up until the current Spacer Hydropot. Bricks or polystyrene do not allow aeration between the substrate and the drains and as a consequence the roots leave the substrate.”

Photo Caption: Diagram showing the support structure, here used in conjunction with a gutter drain.

Photo Credit: Hydroponic Systems

The post New system improves blueberry production appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth

Israeli crop technology company Roots Sustainable Agricultural Technologies Ltd says that trails of its proprietary Root Zone Temperature Optimization (RZTO) system have demonstrated the benefits of optimal root temperature on Romaine lettuce.

Trials conducted in Israel this summers showed a 132 per cent increase in lettuce leaf fresh weight, while the crop’s growing cycle was reduced by almost half, with the crop ready for harvesting in 27 days. The company said that the trial followed successful RZTO cooling proof of concepts on lettuce using Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) technologies and interim results in medicinal cannabis.

Using a hybrid ground source heat exchange version of the RZTO system, lettuce roots were cooled to remain relatively stable around 24 degrees centigrade, despite air temperatures in the greenhouse regularly topping 34 degrees. In comparison, root temperature of control plantings fluctuated between 28 and 34 degrees.

Company CEO Dr Sharon Devir said that the results highlighted the many benefits of root zone cooling; “Cooling the roots of lettuce plants in summer not only significantly increases crop yield but also reduces the growing cycle duration and increase yield uniformity. These benefits together could help farmers plan for increased annual crop production and, therefore, increased income. Our RZTO systems are versatile and can be used to cool the roots of crops in open fields, grow bags, hydroponic and in soil.”

Photo Caption: The trial increased harvested fresh weight of Romaine lettuce.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Cooling lettuce roots boosts crop growth appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.

Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales

According to a new survey of smaller retailers by card payment services company Payment Sense, sales of goods packaged in plastic, and fruit and vegetables in particular, have declined over the last six months.

The move comes as consumers have become increasingly concerned by the environmental effects of plastic waste around the world, which have been highlighted by the BBC’s Blue Planet and forthcoming Drowning in Plastic programmes.

More than half of the 291 retailers surveyed (54 per cent) in July 2018 said that they had seen a fall in sales, with fruit juice and bottled water sales also suffering. Almost half (49 per cent) of the retailers surveyed also said more customers had requested products without packaging over the last six months.

Guy Moreve, chief marketing officer at Payment Sense, said, “Our study shows how changing consumer behaviour is starting to have an impact on the UK’s small retailers… Movements like the UK Plastics Pact are really gaining traction, as businesses and industry work towards a more circular approach to protect the environment.”

Photo Caption: Small retailers say that consumers are shunning fruit and veg wrapped in plastic.

Photo Credit: pxhere

The post Attitudes to plastic affecting produce sales appeared first on Hort News on 26 September 2018.