The NextGen fruit group ventured as far as California, USA America for its bi-annual international conference (representing the third event to be hosted outside of Europe) to witness a scale of fruit and vegetable production unrivalled in the UK. 

The cohort of 53 delegates visited California, which produces over a third of the United States’ vegetables and nearly three-quarters of the country’s fruit and nuts, to see how the group’s Californian grower counterparts are dealing with the challenges associated with a strong reliance on migrant labour, climate change and extreme weather conditions.

During the seven-day conference, NextGen fruit members were hosted by 14 different businesses on a road trip that covered 900 miles between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Crops and production visits varied from Driscoll’s 500-hectare organic strawberry production to a small-scale peach and plum grower; from inner city vertically farmed lettuce to rolling hills and the regenerative vineyards of a family winery; and from large scale prepared salad production to indoor grown cannabis.  In addition to learning about California’s crops and growing methodologies, the UK growers also had an opportunity to appreciate the Californian approach to automation within fruit and vegetable farming and a chance to view at first hand the state’s impressive transition to adopting advanced automation, robotics and AI solutions.

Commenting on the event, outgoing chairman, Oli Pascall, managing director Clock House Farm said: “The NextGen fruit group represents the best of UK horticulture, and the future of fruit farming. The aim of this trip was to gain valuable insight into the excellent farming protocols intrinsic to California’s successful crop production track record, and to see what practices can be replicated to benefit and enhance fruit farming in the UK. We are grateful for the generosity displayed to us by our American hosts as well as the support of NextGen’s UK partners and supporters, without whom this international trip would not have been possible. And of course, having chaired the group for the last two years, I would like to thank the committee Gail Gribble, Anna Ralph, Mike Rudge, Rob Wickham, Tom Barnes and Alana Deacon for their time and had work in making this memorable international conference in California happen.

The return from the States also heralds a handover to a new committee, chaired by Alana Deacon, Head of Operations at Hall Hunter who said: “I’m really excited to take on the mantle of leadership from the current committee, whose sterling work and superb organisation over the last two years has resulted in the delivery of a range of very successful events. The NextGen fruit group has always served as a source of inspiration to me, providing access to a valuable network of like-minded individuals within the industry. I am looking forward to working with a team of young growers as dedicated to the cause as that led by Oli Pascall and his committee, building on the achievements of the past two years.”

The NextGen fruit group is focused on facilitating learning, information exchange and building lifetime connections in the industry, and is open to young people working in the fruit growing sector. For more information visit