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The English Apple Man


15th Jul 2022 - The English Apple Man attends Fruit Focus on a very hot day!

This Wednesday The EAM visited FRUIT FOCUS the annual horticultural event held at NIAB at East Malling.


Arriving before 10am the car park was already very well filled and as I got out of my cool car (air conditioned) the outside felt like facing an open oven!


Making my way in, via registration I found The South East Farmer Magazine stand with Jamie McGrorty and his delighful wife Becky, she armed me with a bottle of cold water which accompanied me for most of the day!


In the past (when my energy was greater,) I would try to cover as much as possible, but now feeling my age and in the extreme heat, I made my way slowly to stands of particular interest (to me) and accepted the occasional ice cream and a nice cold can of drink!





As I set off with my water bottle from SEF stand, my next visit was to AG Recruitment where Doug Amez offered me a chair and an ice cream!


Doug and his lovely wife Estera with their team at AG have created a very 'principled' business since they launched in 2013.


AG Recruitment & Management is a specialist supplier of seasonal labour to the UK agriculture industry. Since their launch, they have been successfully delivering a 'unique model' of supplying seasonal labour to the UK agricultural industry.


From their website: AG Recruitment & Management's business approach is constantly adapting to market conditions, to ensure we serve our clients in the UK and overseas in the most agile and flexible manner. Our experienced and knowledgeable team aims to make us the most reliable seasonal labour provider to the UK agricultural industry.


My next visit was to the NFU Sponsored Fruit Focus Forums


NFU Fruit Forum: Accessing labour through 2022 and beyond




Despite securing a commitment to a 3 year Seasonal Worker Scheme, growers have faced the most difficult season yet.


Labour shortages have reached their highest levels and decisions to release the extra 10k visas for horticulture have been painfully slow. Hear about the ongoing activities to secure a more stable, long term solution, and what businesses can do to ensure the tight labour market doesn't exacerbate worker exploitation risks.






The Panel


Chairman, Lee Abbey, NFU Chief Horticulture Adviser


Simon Bowyer, Concordia, to give an update on SWS recruitment, any ongoing impacts from the Ukraine conflict, and how the new 'conditions' around worker welfare, pay, and domestic recruitment are being managed.


Martin Emmett, Chair of NFU Horticulture & Potatoes board, to discuss current NFU priorities and activities to secure a longer term solution


Paul Willgoss, co-chair of Modern Slavery Intelligence Network, to discuss the role of MSNI and the importance of delivering high standards of worker welfare.


The English Apple Man Comments: A very well presented Forum with very knowledgeable speakers, covering the many obstacles facing fruit growers and those representing them.


Next stop: The NIAB Stand where the 'very new' Malling Elizabeth Plum was launched. The EAM tasted one and it has a distinctive hint of Victoria Plum but circa 7 weeks earlier season. Those on display were picked 2 weeks ago and held in cold store in advance of the launch at Fruit Focus'


Below: Ross Newham Operations Director - NIAB at East Malling


Malling Elizabeth plum


Description: Named after Queen Elizabeth II and released to coincide with the Platinum Jubilee 2022. Malling tm Elizabeth® is a heavy cropping Victoria like plum which crops much earlier than Victoria, in early July. Large, firm ovate shaped, red-purple plums are produced in abundance. The fruit are sweet and an average weight of 37g per fruit. Flesh is juicy and yellow-orange. Small, white flowers are produced in spring around one week before Victoria and are partially self fertile. Prunus domestica L. (Plum) Malling tm Elizabeth® EU PBR pending 20200654, UK 25/593.


History: Bred at NIAB EMR East Malling Research Centre, East Malling Kent. Opal x Herman


The latest fruit from Malling Fruits - the marketing brand for NIAB's varieties - follows in the footsteps of its successful strawberries and raspberries.


Using a combination of traditional techniques and genomics-assisted breeding, NIAB supports the development of disease resistant, high quality varieties designed to deliver improved yield, fruit size and quality, lower fruit wastage, easier picking and season extension.



From the NIAB stand I made my way to DOGTOOTH ROBOTICS where founder & COO Ed Herbert updated me on the progress of their strawberry picking robot.




Next stop: The NP Seymour stand where I talked to Claire Seymour about their Bio Distributor and to Jasper Hubert of Koppert who showed me their own machine.


Below: left; the NP Seymour Stand and right; Claire Seymour with their 'electric' Bio distributor



Below: left; the KOPPERT Bio distributor and right; Jasper Hubert explains the operating procedure



Below: left; on the Kirkland stand The EAM enjoys another cold drink in the shade and takes a picture of the area beyond and right; Kirkland are having great success with this Blueberry Harvester



From Kirkland the EAM walked the short distance to the NFU Fruit Focus Forum Marque for three presentations.


First on the rostrum, Nick Marston - Chairman of British Berry Growers


Nick is the former CEO of Berry Gardens and since retiring has taken on the berry industry's promotional body, which has changed it's name from British Summer Fruits to British Berry Growers.


The UK berry growing industry and the work of its industry body British Summer Fruits has been a great success story for decades, growing demand far above the overall fruit category growth, and satisfying that demand with near 100% home grown supply. Our growers now face unprecedented challenges that threaten their and the industries very existence. Nick Marston will talk about what the repurposed industry body is doing to address this massive challenge and to ensure the industries long term sustainability.



The English Apple Man will expand on Nick Marston's excellent presentation in next week's EAM Journal.


Finally, two excellent presentations by Halvard Grimstad Head of Deployment, Saga Robotics and Ed Herbert Founder and COO of Dogtooth Robotics.


Below: left; Halvard Grimstad Head of Deployment, Saga Robotics and right; Ed Herbert Founder and COO of Dogtooth



The English Apple Man will expand on Halvard and Ed's presentations in a future Journal




My last visit took me back to AG Recruitment for a relaxing 'PIMMS' with Doug and his team.



For a look at the full programme for Fruit Focus click o FRUIT FOCUS


That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man


PS: as I left the temperature was 29 C and on route home it reached 30 degrees C - "whew"