AHDB aims for more balanced approach

Extending the available range of plant protection products, adding depth and breadth to the industry's expertise and knowledge, and tackling the rising cost of labour are key priorities for the new three-year AHDB Horticulture strategy.

Steve Tones
Steve Tones

The vision of AHDB’s new organisation-wide corporate strategy is "creating a world-class food and farming industry". It has also redefined AHDB’s purpose as "inspiring farmers, growers and the industry to succeed in a rapidly changing world".

The 2017-2020 AHDB Horticulture strategy, which is out for a six week consultation, also tackles the challenges posed by the rising cost of human labour, which can account for between 30 per cent and 70 per cent of total variable production costs.

To improve the quality and long term impact of its research, AHDB Horticulture will move from a largely tactical problem solving approach to one that is "more balanced and joined up, with some larger thematic programmes on topics of cross sector importance such as pesticide resistance, soil and water". 

Better leverage of levy funding will be sought through collaboration with other research funders such as the UK research councils and the new Agri-Tech innovation centres.

AHDB Horticulture Sector director Steve Tones said: "We are an incredibly diverse and innovative sector industry, but all horticultural businesses face an increasingly competitive retail market, rising labour costs and a dwindling chemical protection armoury.

"Our Sector Board wants to focus AHDB levy investment on those activities that add the most value, avoid duplicating work already being done by others, and build our work on cross-cutting themes of broad benefit to all horticulture sectors.

"We will continue to generate Extensions of Authorisations for Minor Uses (EAMUs) to meet the short term crop protection needs identified by grower associations and AHDB Horticulture’s sector panels.  Other, more forward-looking work will focus on the long term development of robust integrated crop management systems to minimise future crop losses from diseases, pests and weeds.  New approaches and ways of sharing costs on this work will be explored with industry partners and the Agri-Tech Crop Health and Protection (CHaP) Innovation Centre.

"We will also continue to invest in the next generation of industry experts by funding student bursaries, Felllowships, PhD studentships and Nuffield Scholarships, and we will work with the National Land-Based College and others to promote horticulture as a forward-thinking career of choice for school and college-age students."

Strategic benchmarking of production and management systems will be used to help all businesses get the most out of their workforce. Automation and robotics technologies of potential value to horticulture will be explored and showcased in partnerhip with the Agri-Tech Agri-Epi Centres and others.

Tones added: "Greater competition in the grocery market is leading to more supply chain consolidation with fewer, bigger businesses. We have also looked at how we can refresh our approach to knowledge exchange through more digital delivery and working with others to ensure that our work is relevant and practical and made as widely accessible to levy payers as possible."

The strategy can be found online at http://www.ahdb.org.uk/publications/consultation.aspx

The closing date for the consultation is 9 January 2017. Horticulture levy rates for 2017/18 are to remain unchanged.


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