Overseas innovation is focus for ornamental tour

A US study tour geared to providing an insight into technical innovation, mechanisation and marketing for ornamentals growers has proved a resounding success.

The Ornamentals Study Tour jointly organised by the Horticultural Development Company (HDC) and British Protected Ornamentals Association (BPOA), funded by Defra/RDPE, involved a week-long tour attended by 21 growers, consultants and associates taking in a selection of nurseries and research institutes on North America?s east coast.

Highlights of the tour included one of largest and most automated nurseries in the USA, Metrolina Greenhouses, which with over 60 ha of production area is the largest single site greenhouse in the USA. During peak season over 150 trailer loads of product are shipped per day to major retailers in a number of states.? As well as taking in the sheer size of the business, the tour covered water capture and recycling, greenhouse design (the company uses a unique open-roof greenhouse design) and biomass boiler use on a massive scale.

The group also took in Rockwell Farms, which has recently built a 1.5 ha Cravo retractable roof greenhouse and installed conveyor systems to handle product.? The company is also creating a new reservoir (with a capacity of 112 million litres of water) and has purchased four Harvest Automation HV-100 robots for crop spacing which the group were lucky to see in action.

The use of ozone for the treatment of recycled and collected water for irrigation purposes was observed at Lucas Greenhouses, whilst at Kube-Pak their nursery-wide IPM programme was discussed.

HDC Research and Knowledge Exchange Manager, Wayne Brough, said, ?In the past year we have been able to offer ornamental growers a number of valuable study tours, they have proven to be a popular way for growers to see alternative methods and practices within a number of industry leading businesses. I hope this tour will have both inspired and provided some interesting innovations and techniques that growers will wish to adopt.?

Taking in North and South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and New Jersey, businesses visited during the week included: Metrolina Greenhouses, Rockwell Farms, North Carolina State University (NCSU) Cooperative Extension, Plant Delights, Bell Nursery, Lucas Greenhouses, Kube-Pak and Plainview Growers.

Simon Davenport, BPOA Chairman said, ?This week has been a unique opportunity for bedding and pot plant growers to see a wide range of American production units and discuss openly the similarities and differences with the UK ornamentals industry, in particular marketing. The BPOA is indebted to HDC for supporting and coordinating the tour and to the initiative of Mike Smith in preparing an excellent programme of visits.?

Grower, Mike Smith, of WD Smith and Son, said,? ?This study tour has been an extremely useful opportunity for some of the younger growers who have attended it to experience production techniques on another continent, to discuss them with fellow growers and then take them back and apply them in a relevant manner.?

For growers not fortunate enough to have participated on the study tour, a blog of the week?s visits, including video snippets and photos can be found on the HDC website: www.hdc.org.uk/ornamentals-study-tour-2015

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