The show will now take place at the Kent Showground at Detling on 2 and 3 November 2022 and has been repositioned to fully include soft as well as top fruit.

“This new date means growers will have picked the majority of their fruit and will be able to bring their teams to the show,” explained NFS Executive Chair Sarah Calcutt. “We know the industry will be pleased by the move into November and we are looking forward to seeing everyone again.

“For the first time our show will be for growers of all fruit crops, ensuring that we are encompassing the broad range of challenges facing our sector, from regenerative techniques to the artificial intelligence (AI) and automation revolution required.”

Ahead of the show, organisers from the Marden Fruit Show Society have announced that the society’s AGM will be held on Wednesday 6 April at NIAB EMR in East Malling, Kent.

As well as covering formal society business, the day will feature a full conference programme focused on the theme of UK Fruit Growing – The future, automation and research. The AGM is open to everyone in the UK fruit industry and will be available to attend in person and online.

Sponsored by the Agri-EPI Centre, which supports the development of engineering and precision agriculture technologies and systems, the programme will look at how new technologies can help growers become more efficient and productive at a time of tight margins and chronic labour shortages.

Dave Ross, chief executive of the Agri-EPI Centre, said: “For us, sponsoring the National Fruit Show’s AGM is a fantastic way of showing our support for a like-minded organisation tackling the collective challenge of how to shape the future of sustainable fruit farming in the UK. We’re looking forward to the programme and an interesting day.”

The prestigious James Nichols lecture will be delivered by Professor Simon Pearson, director of the Lincoln Institute for Agri-Food Technology. A leader in inter-disciplinary ag-tech research, Professor Pearson is working on developing robotic solutions to drive productivity across the agri-food sector, including harvesting, phenotyping and crop care.

Also on the conference speaker’s platform will be Tim Mordan, deputy director of the agri-food chain at DEFRA. Tim will talk about the seasonal workers scheme, how the agencies involved are working to bring the right candidates to the UK and also about sourcing labour at home.

With Tim on the conference programme will be Lee Abbey, chief advisor, horticulture and potatoes, at the NFU.

Jim McDougall from Outfield will be talking about the technology the company has developed with growers to assess orchards throughout the season using AI and drones. He will also share changes across horticulture in recent years, what Outfield’s growers have found useful and where these technologies might be going in the future.

The afternoon conference session is in conjunction with NIAB/EMR and will include a visit to the new Growing Kent and Medway facility and a presentation of the latest research findings for the sector.

Sarah Calcutt commented: “This is a crucial time for the industry, with growers having to deal with a wide range of challenges, and this conference will showcase some of the exciting examples of how automation and technology can help producers to thrive in the future.”