Figures from amenity horticulture to production to share leadership insights at institute event

A leading green space professional will join a pioneer in sustainable crop production next month to share insights into their leadership roles within the horticulture industry.

Ireland: good leadership is all about juggling and listening to staff
Ireland: good leadership is all about juggling and listening to staff

Sue Ireland, City of London Corporation director of green spaces who is due to retire next year, will give delegates to the Chartered Institute of Horticulture annual conference an insight into the challenges and opportunities of managing some of London’s extensive key green spaces.

Ireland told Horticulture Week that the secret to successful stewardship of the corporation's 4,452 hectares was to be an expert juggler, with issues such as tree disease, air quality, drainage, dog walkers, kite flyers and cyclists all falling under her remit.

"A lot of that juggling is about the need to balance the demands of nature conservation with the needs for leisure. We do some amazing things in terms of invisible fending, which we do with grazing animals, looking after ancient pollards and conservation. It’s being careful in thinking of the implications of one demand versus another helping people to understand these different demands that we have.    

The estate ranges from ancient woodlands and heaths right through to pocket parks and gardens in the City of London. It has 18 major green spaces in London and south east England and more than 200 smaller ones in the Square Mile.

"One of the challenges is ooking after disused burial grounds and looking after bombed out church sites which we have turned from grey to green to help people to enjoy these spaces and the high quality of landscaping we need to provide." City residents and workers expect high quality green infrastructure and this is central to attracting both businesses and workers to the capital, she said.

Ireland puts a lot of store in consultations with the corporation's green space users and talking about "the incredible services" it and its staff provides, which often reach further than horticulture. "We have staff at our sites who are often social workers in the broadest sense of the word," said Ireland. "Lots of people visit our open spaces and need quiet, many have mental health issues, very often our staff become involved with these people." She has strategic overview of the department but says it is important to find time to visit staff at the various sites to listen to their advice and concerns.

Keeping with the theme will be group development at APS Salads Phil Pearson, who wants to push the message that sustainable edibles production is not only good for the environment but makes good business sense.

Pearson pioneered the use of a combined heat and power system (CHP) in the early 1990s after seeing it used successfully in Holland.  The system sees the nursery export 56 megawatts to the National Grid during the day, capturing and storing waste heat in four six-million litre tanks.

At night when energy prices are lower, APS Salads turns off the power and pushes its stored heat into its glasshouses. The waste heat has increased levels of CO2 which increases the sugar content of tomatoes, making them more saleable. The Billingham, Cheshire-based company has increased yield from 45kg per sqm per year up to 55 in one year based on its CHP CO2 policy.

Pearson will explain his company’s "use of energy, maximising the use of carbon dioxide, making food from a product that most people throw away but also how we cool our pack house by using ground source cooling. We take waste heat from pack house and use that to pre-heat the irrigation water to 20 degrees, which increases the shelf lives of the products."

APS Salads has also increased production significantly through using low-energy red LED lighting producing the wavelength of light that the plants need using photosynthetic active radiation

"Plants are green because they only use red lights, plants don’t use yellow or blue light. I like solutions that work," he said.

Pearson said he was lucky that his role in the family business allowed him to develop new projects.

Also speaking are: David Domoney, horticulturist and TV presenter, Anthony Snell, managing director, AJ Snell and Alan Roper, managing director, Blue Diamond Group. Director of Walberton and Binsted Nurseries Martin Emmett will deliver the James Bruce Keynote Lecture.

"The industry has followed us. The message is to be sustainable, think about new ideas, not just in production but how you market yourself."

The CIH conference 'Leadership Innovation and Growth' will be held alongside its AGM at the Farmers’ and Fletchers’ Hall, Cloth Street, in the City of London on 30 November. 

To book email cih@horticulture.org.uk or call 03330 050 181.


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