The new Maidstone Exhibition Hall is a great venue for our 81st fruit show this year with the change in size and shape handing us an opportunity to change the layout of the event as well; the fruit competition is at the heart of what we do and now we can place it centrally in the main exhibition hall. Several exhibitors have taken the opportunity to expand their stand areas taking advantage of corner plots to increase the range of products and services on display. ICA has a stand to stop at and admire; this year celebrating their 20th anniversary as a business, their stand is dedicated to the 100 years of Harry Lawrence and ICA innovation in storage technology. The pictures are very interesting tracking both technology, design and also fashion over the years!
There is a new stand for the fruit too – our home made structure has served us well but along with the communal tin of drawing pins and the pot of green paint it is now part of the show’s history. Custom-made from laminated marine ply it gives us great flexibility in length and dimensions, more secure spaces for the trays and a more professional place for the amazing fruit in the competition. The design has been a real labour of love for Robert Oliver and Mike Lutener and I am very grateful for their attention to detail on this project. With the pressure on this season to impress upon retailers the importance of supporting home grown fruit in a sustainable way we hope that the new display does its part in showing growers fruit to its best advantage. Brian Tompsett will be chairing the judges for the first time this year, few know the competition better than Brian, a winner himself many times over he is a very worthy successor to our lovely Sue Daly.
This year is a show full of innovation with some significant product and service launches being made at the event; Collett Fresh, the new non retail division of Norman Collett makes its first appearance. Created to address the issues around falling farm gate returns, Collett Fresh is committed to reducing food waste and maximising orchard pick, focussed on creating value for growers and suppliers by offering the expertise to develop products, drive sales and optimize overall orchard returns. ICA will be launching the Smart Pod DCA system, a new store atmosphere analysis system designed to deliver improved long term stored fruit quality and further improve energy efficiencies. DCA technology is set to revolutionise the way that we store fruit and David Bishop will be speaking as part of our seminar series about the impact the system will have. The first system has already been installed at the AC Goatham and Son, Flanders Farm facility ready for the new season long term stored fruit.
Stand bookings have been keeping Maria very busy, we are pleased to welcome 15 new companies; the CLA is joining the NFU as grower’s representatives at the show, Solar Advance Systems are joining our growing group of green energy providers and we also have a new and innovation smart phone application company Green Patch with their field recording system. The dinner is in the Emson building as last year, with table booking well over the 20 we were able to fit into Turkey Mill it is perhaps our home for the future of the dinner, the timing of the show has been pushed back a little, with the wonderful reception sponsored by Orchard World starting a little earlier correspondingly. We are working with the same caterers you will be pleased to hear, they will be producing a dinner rich in local ingredients and of course top fruit, with Hadlow College as a sponsor and our partnership with Produced in Kent our dinner has links into the best meat and produce Kent can provide.
I am pleased that the support of Whitehead Monkton continues with an excellent programme for our grower briefings this year. Covering all areas from Health and Safety, national promotional campaigns and the results of the latest rootstock trials at EMR there is essential information for all growers of top and soft fruit. We have been able to secure the top experts in their field for the seminars which will be BASIS and NRoSO point registered, the full listing is in the show handbook.
New apple and pear varieties will also be centre stage this year with a selection spanning the marketing season and encompassing new colours, flavours and different pear varieties suitable for our climate. Verbeeks, DL Legonniare and FP Matthews will be sampling on their stands and there will also be an area for evaluation of the different new fruits – please remember to pause here, have a munch and leave notes for the breeders. I hope you enjoy the show, we have worked extremely hard to enable the event to take another substantial leap forward.