Warm weather, a packed programme, product launches, topical debates and the chance to catch up with friends, suppliers and customers ensured that the 2022 Fruit Focus more than matched the show’s claim to be the industry’s “premier fruit event”.
There was a purposeful feel about the show, with visitors fully engaged with the standholders, keen to learn about new and better technology and sharing ideas and information both in formal sessions and while pausing for a chat with friends and colleagues.
Held at NIAB East Malling in Kent, Fruit Focus again combined research tours, NFU-sponsored fruit forums and demonstrations with a broad range of stands manned by suppliers from across the whole of the fruit industry.
From agronomists to machinery manufacturers, packing specialists to robotics companies and substrate suppliers to plant nutrition experts, the show had plenty to offer and aroused considerable interest from potential buyers, suppliers and partners.
The show also gave agronomists, farm managers, advisers and others the chance to earn BASIS continuous professional development points and gave the organisation an opportunity to highlight its new Principles of Sustainable Land Management course, which is available both online and through in-person training.
The popular NFU Fruit Forums addressed topics including labour supply, a new technique for controlling spotted wing drosophila, reducing water and fertiliser use and the intriguingly titled Ozone nano bubble technology and the agronomic effects of root zone temperature.
Growing Kent & Medway also had an increased presence at this year’s Fruit Focus, operating a new networking and information-gathering hub that also hosted a number of speakers on topics including routes to market, net zero, mentoring, funding opportunities and the search for new talent.
As well as organising a number of research tours to its various East Malling facilities, including the Greentech Hub for Advanced Horticulture and its water efficient technology (WET) Centre, NIAB EMR took the opportunity to launch its new early season plum variety Malling™ Elizabeth.
Claimed to have exceptional eating quality, the Victoria-like plum, named in honour of Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, is described as firm, sweet and juicy and delivers an impressive yield.
Stephanie Dunn James, director of leading UK top fruit propagator FP Matthews, which has worked with NIAB EMR to bring the trees to market, also spoke at the launch, which included an opportunity to taste the fruit.
Earlier in the day’s busy schedule, Cranfield University student Lauren Farwell was presented with the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers’ Student Prize along with a cheque for £1,500 from Berry Gardens.
The PhD student was rewarded for her work on the epidemiology of Cladosporium on raspberries in the UK, aimed at underpinning the development of effective management strategies. Thomas Heaven from the University of Lincoln won the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers’ David Hohnen prize.