Traditionally my December column takes a bit of a look back over the year. Looking through my pages I have been to a lot of strategic briefings, some good with great foresight and some, well, not great shall we say.
I’ve met some extraordinarily talented and clever people helping drive change in produce, eaten some great new varieties, visited exemplar farming operations and happily been part of one of the best fruit shows in our 82 years. Certainly nothing has stood still in 2015, consolidation among groups across the board, plenty of new product launches keeping the momentum going in the expansion of market share and efficiency of production.
One of the events that stands out for me is the creation of the Avalon group: the consolidation of 25% of British top fruit into one team, a shared board of marketeers and growers going from strength to strength. Doing a great job, by all accounts, in the face of a tough season full of price pressures and a very large crop to sell. Once an SGT grower (and board member), it’s great to see their members benefitting from strength in numbers and a broader retailer base to engage with. The announcement of the new Kentish Kiss apple is a good example of a healthy partnership between growers and their retail partner. It’s a great apple, it’s a great name and it now has an assured position on shelves with good provenance which can only be good for the broader industry too.
The broader fruit industry has had, mainly, an excellent profile in the media recently with very positive reporting and exposure in all the right programmes – from Thatchers Cider, Adrian Scripps Ltd and British Cassis on Countryfile, to Saturday Kitchen and programmes examining the real cost of food and how the industry is meeting those challenges. We have some excellent spokespeople in our industry, exemplar growers who are very gifted in getting their message across, enlightening the general public about the great investment in technology and care and attention that goes into producing the nation’s fruit.
My beloved fruit show was a great example of the industry coming together to share knowledge, launch labour saving and quality improving technology and also to catch up with the broader industry news. 2015 was a highly successful event both in terms of attendance and scope but also because of the excursion into Whitehall, joining with the broader produce bodies to demonstrate the scope and quality of home grown and how important it is that this sector is supported and nurtured.
And looking ahead again – well, I’m going to spend Christmas (apart from the extensive merry making of course) doing some research into probiotic approaches to plant health, as opposed to antibiotic. It’s a subject that is cropping up across almost everything that I am working on at present. Viewed from a human health perspective if we have a healthy diet, live in a healthy environment and care for ourselves we are sustained by a good immune system. So when approaching plant health and the quality and nutritional content of the produce that is grown how can the same principles be applied from a micro fauna level onwards?
I’ve learnt so much in the last few weeks about the beneficial/symbiotic relationships between mycorrhizal fungi and root growth (I’m sure that I’ve written about trichoderma in the past) and now there is more to digest on structure, nutrition, pest and product resistance and the on going benefits to human health through nutritionally superior produce. Its going to be interesting.
I do hope that the Christmas period is a happy family time for you all. I wish you all a very happy new year and here’s to 2016.