With an opening address by Lord Krebs, former Chairman of the British Food Standards Agency, the 87th National Fruit Show will offer a huge range of incisive speakers, informative presentations, networking and impressive fruit competitions, as well as exhibitor stands, a cider contest and even a post-show drinks reception.

The difference is that all aspects of the show, on Thursday 22 October, will be held on line as a result of Covid-19 restrictions, and while that may sound like a substantial difference, the show’s organisers have worked incredibly hard to create something special under difficult circumstances.

As Marden Fruit Show Society President Teresa Wickham points out elsewhere, visitors “will have access to great speakers and presentations and be able to see and learn about new innovations in the sector – and they will be able to do everything without leaving home. I am certain that National Fruit Show Live will be as good as it possibly could be in the circumstances.”

Teresa is herself one of the top name speakers at the show, joining Lord Krebs, NFU Vice President Tom Bradshaw and others in an online debate hosted by the Rural Policy Group on food and farming policy and the role for British fruit farmers in feeding future generations.

“2020 has given the show the opportunity to reinvent itself and embrace the new reality with open arms,” explained Sarah Calcutt, National Fruit Show chairman and the driving force behind the team that has embraced the ‘new reality’.

This will be only the third time the fruit show has not been held as a face-to-face event, having been cancelled twice during the Second World War, once following bombing in Marden and once because of catastrophic frost damage in all major growing areas.

This year’s show will be hosted in partnership with the Fresh Produce Journal and The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers and will include a series of debates and presentations from policy makers, industry representatives, Nuffield Scholars and leading researchers in top and soft fruit plus viticulture. As usual it will also feature a thriving trade show, with ‘virtual’ stands highlighting all that’s best in the industry.

The Fruit Show Live morning session, sponsored by MHA MacIntyre Hudson and the Rural Policy Group, will start at 10.15am and will feature Lord Krebs, Emeritus Professor of Zoology at the University of Oxford and an independent cross-bencher in the House of Lords since 2007.

Lord Krebs was a member of the Energy and Environment Select Committee from 2015 to 19 and in 2019-20 he chaired a Select Committee inquiry on food, poverty, health and the environment, giving him a vital perspective on how the industry can contribute to the role of the fruit industry on feeding the nation.
Other speakers during the morning session will be Society President Teresa Wickham, who also has a vast amount of experience in the industry and is co-founder of the Women’s Farming Union, and Tom Bradshaw, NFU Deputy President and an active farmer whose contract business spans 1,200 acres of combinable crops.

The session will be chaired by Sarah Calcutt and will end with a short interview with Ali Capper, Executive Chair of British Apples and Pears, on how the trade association has reached more consumers than ever before.

From 12 noon, online visitors will be able to click into technical forum presentations from agronomy firms and industry experts who will provide updates on a range of subjects including new biological control strategies and soil health. The presentations will last for 20 minutes each and conclude with live question and answer sessions. Speakers include Alex Radu from Agrovista on integrated pest management and Rob Saunders from Hutchinsons, who will present the interim results of the Helios orchards project.

At 2pm The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers and the Fresh Produce Journal will present a panel discussion showcasing the latest research in top and soft fruit. It will be chaired by recently retired industry veteran and Fruiterers’ Past Master Laurence Olins and followed by a short question and answer session.

Speakers will include Richard Harrison from Nuffield, Peter Thompson, managing director of Essex-based George Thompson Ltd, one of the UK’s leading fruit and vegetable farms, and John Giles, divisional director for agri food with Promar International. PhD student Tobias Lane, who is supported by the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers and the winner of the livery company’s 2019 Student Prize, will also be on the panel.

After the presentation of The Livery Awards by The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, the winners of the National Fruit Show categories will be announced.

This famous competition, a highly visible link back to the first shows in Marden in the 1930s, will remain a highly important element of the day and will be judged just a few days ahead of the show and include Britain’s tastiest apple and other popular categories, as well as classes for walnuts and cobnuts.

The National Fruit Show’s cider competition will also return in 2020. Again judged in advance, the winners will be announced live and the winning ciders will feature in a celebratory drinks post-show reception, hosted by bon viveur, radio presenter and competition judge Nigel Barden. Ciders have been nominated by the apple-loving public via the show’s social media channel.

Delivered by global event company CVent, the 2020 National Fruit Show will use the latest virtual event software to provide visitors with a fully interactive exhibition hall with virtual stands for all exhibitors.

This service includes live meeting rooms, links to websites, company literature downloads and calendar appointment services housed in a company branded micro site, making the online show as near as possible to the physical show that the industry has come to love over the past 90 years or thereabouts.

“The decision to take the show online was made after extensive consultation with sponsors, stakeholders and growers,” explained Sarah Calcutt. “We are confident that we have come up with a terrific format which works for everyone involved and that, while different, this will be another great National Fruit Show.”

Sarah added that the technology involved meant that the show would still be able to deliver the depth of technical knowledge needed to enable it to be registered for essential NRoSO and BASIS points, another reason why the show retains its ‘must do’ credentials for so many young up and coming recruits despite the change in format.

Visitors and exhibitors should book as they have in the past, by visiting www.nationalfruitshow.org.uk and talking to the team. Show Secretary Catherine Joules will be offering technical support for all company profiles and creating personalised business areas.

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