Launch pad for kit

From glasshouses and climate equipment to potting machines and sprayers, many firms use the Four Oaks Trade Show as the launch pad for new ranges or to discuss how services can benefit growing operations.

Greenhouse system: full spectrum of ultraviolet light (image: Naturelight)
Greenhouse system: full spectrum of ultraviolet light (image: Naturelight)

You can also discover the latest technology for plant traceability and software for managing all aspects of production. Recognising that British horticulture needs smart climate-control solutions, Naturelight is showing a system that provides protection from the rigours of wind and rain and boasts the technology to exploit the natural benefits of fresh air, full-spectrum ultraviolet light and sunshine not filtered through glass. It manufactures a greenhouse with a fully-opening roof that can be controlled manually or linked to a sensor system that responds to temperature, humidity, rainfall or wind speed. Commercial manager Ken Morris says: "The greenhouse is totally weatherproof while offering more than 90 per cent of its roof aperture to the elements at the touch of a button."

An all-round greenhouse specialist, Dutch company Kees Greeve is promoting its services — from complete turnkey projects, glasshouse dismantling and construction to technical systems. Special focus this year is placed on automatic, semi-automatic and manual growing bench systems. The company is highlighting self-assembly display benches that can be expanded into larger systems.

Best of BioEnergy winner at the 2011 GCCA Global Cleantech Awards, Imperative Energy attends to discuss how renewable energy heating and combined heat and power solutions can benefit growers. "Under the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme, this technology is not only a carbon-neutral alternative to fossil fuels but more cost-effective to operate," says sales director Chris Hughes. The company offers a turnkey solution with attractive payback.

Lower energy costs, reduced CO2 emissions and land rental opportunities are all topics of discussion as Hallmark Power details its business of harnessing natural power to facilitate a greener and more profitable future. The company supplies, installs and maintains wind turbines, anaerobic digestion plants and solar panels. For the next 20 years, it will pay £6,000-£40,000 annual rent on good wind sites.

For news of biomass boilers, visit the Manco Energy stand. The company specialises in the supply and installation of boilers from Denmark and can advise on different fuel types — such as straw, Miscanthus and woodchip.
There are more heating solutions on the Thermobile stand. Turning its smallest direct fired oil heater into mobile unit, the company has added a wheel set and handle to its Model TA16. A further improvement of this 63,000Btu/hr output heater is the addition of a larger fuel tank — now 40 litres for 20 hours of continuous use.

The benefits of lighting is the theme on Valoya’s stand as the Finnish firm displays energy-efficient LEDs for use by growers, plant breeders and research institutes. The lights are used on a range of plants from flowers and vegetables to ornamental trees and algae. This year, the company introduces a new growth spectrum, AP673, optimised especially for the growth of leafy greens. According to sales and marketing officer Sanna Naveri, benefits over traditional luminaries include better growth, increased biomass and enhanced appearance.

"Our LED spectrums have been proven to suit several plants better than light from traditional luminaries. This is the case also with the AP673 growth spectrum that presents numerous benefits compared to traditional fluorescent tubes or sodium lights," says Naveri. The AP673 is based on research conducted with institutes and growers of lettuce and herbs, and is suitable for use in traditional greenhouses, multi-layer installations and other no-sunlight environments. Valoya’s product series is built to not direct heat towards the plants so it can be installed close to the crop.

Horticultural businesses are often constrained by high labour costs, downtime on production lines and a lack of statistics. JackNbox is showcasing technologies to help growers meet the demanding standards of volume retailers. "The ability to trace every plant from seed to final despatch is crucial and puts managers in a position to improve yields, achieve higher-quality controls and deepen customers’ relations through management information provision," says director Craig Palmer.

In 2010, the company introduced the first in its range of dispensing solutions for multiple seed types and addressed the need for flexibility of planting multiple seed configurations and rapid tray size changes. This year, JackNbox is launching mobile SCADA and line range sensors. Palmer explains: "The integration of mobile SCADA systems enables managers to receive critical information about production in real time. Automated alert notifications can be delivered direct to PC or mobile phone, enabling early detection of problems. Downtime is cut, quality controls improved and labour costs reduced."

The importance of plant traceability is also detailed by Codeway. The Essex-based company is showing a new system that monitors batches from planting to despatch. It has been developed with the Plant Propagators Association and the Horticultural Development Company. Sales manager Barry Day says: "Paperwork in the nursery and subsequent entry to computer is replaced with a handheld barcode reader and Codeway software." An additional benefit is the creation of the Plant Passport. Codeway is also promoting auto-id systems and Operation Chip-it.

Under the banner "one business, one solution", the Ledger Simplex horticultural management framework is detailed by It provides all day-to-day management functions required by commercial growers, nurseries, importers and distributors. "The framework is modular so you only buy what you need," explains sales executive Richard Simmons. "Options include corporate accounting, touchscreen retail solutions, order processing with labelling solutions, stock control with production management plus a mobile data-collection framework." It also provides full traceability, seed test data and certification.

The Logitech DB40 Bale Breaker is again shown on the Brinkman UK stand. "Logitech built the first production Bale Breaker and the DB40 is a fantastic, easy-to-use, reliable machine that is easily transportable around the nursery if required," says Brinkman UK director Stephen Mortimer. "There is a one-year warranty on the machine and a two-year warranty on the chains. We are also interested in taking your old DB30 or DB40 units in part exchange. Mark van der Zande from Logitech will be on our stand to answer any questions."

In addition to launching its brand new website, which goes live at the show, Brinkman UK is also showing a Visser Danish trolley loader. Aimed at reducing labour costs and avoiding health problems associated with lifting heavy items above head height — such as when loading large potted plants onto the top shelf of a trolley — the loader can store many different shelf heights and numbers and can be programmed by the operator. It can also be used with extensions on the trolleys.

A potting machine with a soil-delivery system based on rubber strings rather than chains makes its debut at Four Oaks as Javo agent Hortec Grow with Technology shows the new Javo Plus series — the Plus Medium Potting Machine. The unit boasts galvanised blades to minimise soil structure changes and can handle pots from 9cm to 29cm. The round pot track is adjustable for both pot diameter and height without changing the pot track. Capacity is 3,000 pots per hour.

More nursery kit is exhibited by GAL Systems – the UK agent for Da Ros and supplier of MJF tray-filling machinery. The company also designs and supplies bespoke handling and filling systems to suit requirements.

Sprayers and application equipment for use in nurseries, glasshouses and polytunnels are featured by Micron Group, including the Micron AU8000 mist-blower. It uses rotary atomiser technology to deliver coverage at low- and ultra-low-volume application rates. Droplet size is adjustable to minimise drift and reduce the amount of liquid required while ensuring spray is deposited where it is needed. "The AU8000 eliminates the problem of runoff and greatly assists in the control of chemical residues on fruit and vegetables," says Micron Group marketing manager Ausra Landey.

Also on display is the handheld, air-assisted Electrafan sprayer. Designed for hot-spot pest control in enclosed environments, the Electrafan incorporates a spinning disc atomiser and a fan to produce a directed airflow of small droplets capable of reaching up to six metres. It can apply low- and ultra-low-volume formulations. Battery or mains-operated versions are available to eliminate the need for strenuous pumping.

Sundries and services
This year’s show gives visitors the opportunity to find out about the latest technologies behind fertilisers, pesticides and growing media. It also provides an insight into new pots and containers — for growers and retailers — and offers plenty of food for thought when it comes to labels and marketing materials.

Foliar applications of calcium are a common way to prevent deficiency but they can prove ineffective despite relatively high rates of application. Omex Horticulture sales manager Richard Cameron explains: "Calcium actively enters plant cells by a ‘calcium pump’, which operates effectively when cells are actively metabolising and free of stress but much less so when cells are undergoing little metabolic activity or are stressed."

Omex has developed a formulation of calcium to overcome this problem. Using eba technology, CalMax Ultra contains calcium with a pump primer that ensures the calcium can be actively transported into plant cells. The formulation is designed for low application rates and contains other nutrients such as magnesium, boron, iron, copper, zinc and molybdenum.

Agrovista is showing its latest calcium product, Inca, said to be an efficient transport system product suited to all crops, particularly in unpredictable seasonal weather and calcium-demanding periods of growth. The company also introduces Fossil, a silicon-based insecticide and acaricide for use on a range of horticultural crops. For use as a disinfectant, Agrovista is adding Freebac-Clearoxyl to its portfolio. Based on hydrogen peroxide, it is said to distinguish itself through a highly effective and long-lasting action.

More fertiliser products, particularly those for "teaspoon feeding" by nutrigation, controlled release and foliar application, can be seen on the Haifa stand.

With sustainable construction becoming increasingly important, Jiffy is introducing Green Roof Substrates for roof gardens. The products, developed to conform to FLL guidelines, offer favourable low roof load, optimum growing properties, high water-buffer capacity and balanced mineral nutrition. Two grades are available — Extensive for vegetative roofs of mosses, succulents and herbs and Intensive for roof gardens that comprise grasses, herbs, shrubs and even trees.

A number of companies are launching pots and trays this year. Likely to be of interest to Plug growers is the Aero NT 60 tray from Omni Solutions, while to meet the burgeoning need for peat-free biodegradable pots, Fertil UK is introducing Fertilpot. It is produced from locally sourced sustainable wood fibres blended with a natural lingo-cellulosic compound. Business development manager David Roderick says: "Fertilpot has exceptionally high permeability to water, air and roots. This, combined with its high mechanical strength, produces an excellent root system allowing re-establishment without transplant shock."

Hedging material comes under the spotlight on the Tildenet stand. The firm is launching its Woven Hedge Planter. Trialled throughout the summer by a number of nurseries and growers, it is said to be a cost-effective way of growing and transporting young hedges and plants. The planter is constructed using Tildenet Permatex Woven polypropylene material and includes four carry straps and pole inserts for ease of transportation.

Essential parts of plant presentation and marketing, labelling and point-of-sale support are featured by several companies. Floramedia plans to show examples of its 10,000 stock range of labels, each in nine different shapes to give growers and retailers plenty of choice. With a picture library of more than 175,000 images, Floramedia — made up of a team of professionals with extensive expertise and knowledge of horticultural print, creative design, retailing and plant production — can help you create your own designs.

"We are craftsmen in printing," managing director Nick Mathias maintains. "We draw on our skills to provide the best and most effective products, sales and marketing support to growers, nurseries, garden centres and retailers."

Creative marketing and printing is also demonstrated by Bamboo Print, which has built its reputation on custom projects for the horticulture industry. "We want to help customers present their products and services effectively, boost their market presence and turn browsers into buyers," says print director Duncan McLintock.

Bamboo’s in-house print and production facilities allow it to offer impressive turnaround times. McLintock adds: "We aim to provide a fresh resource for growers and garden retailers. We have the skills and experience to create and deliver superb labels, innovative packaging, persuasive point-of-sale material, compelling promotional literature and outstanding signage."

Codeway says the cost of labelling a 9cm pot can be cut from 1p to less than 0.25p when the process is automated. "Hand labelling involves up to five staff. Using our automatic labelling machine increases throughput from 500 9cm pots per hour to 2,800," says sales manager Barry Day.

Using Avery Dennison print and application machinery, Codeway’s "green" units feature methods of linking labelling to order processing. The firm builds fully and semi-automatic systems, including a portable unit for situations within the greenhouse where power is not available.

Retail product news

After Plant, organic fertilisers derived from natural UK products, is launched by Plantworks. The firm, supplying 1,200 retailers, launched the sub-brand Empathy, Creating Living Soils earlier this year.

A number of planters make their first appearance at the show, including the large, handmade, frost-proof, clay Giant Monkey Jar from Pots of Distinction.

Meanwhile, The Spanglish Store (Spanish Ceramic Garden Pottery) is launching its San Hiscio range of hand-painted flowerpots and plants sourced from around Seville and the Andalucia region.

A range of hanging baskets, wall planters and the Pedestal Stand designed by Christopher Haley can all be seen on the Plantopia Products stand.

Three additional cubes, available in stone effects and marble but made from polyethylene, have been added to Planters World’s range for trade and retail markets.

Handy, easy-to-carry buckets of nutrients are designed to appeal to gardeners wanting to give plants a boost. GroChar fertiliser from Carbon Gold is a natural pelleted fertiliser packed with nitrogen, phosphate and potash. It also contains biochar, which keeps nutrients in the top level of soil.

A 4.5kg Grochar bucket is available for gardeners, allotment users and small-scale commercial growers. The resealable bucket contains biochar complex to supercharge soil by delivering nutrients and speeding up plant growth. It can be added straight to soil or mixed with composts.

Snip Its mini-secateurs are introduced by Tildenet subsidiary FieldFare Gardenware as perfect for deadheading flowers. Available in blue, pink and yellow.

Hand and power tools, including the Young Gardener Range, feature on the Draper Tools stand. New for 2013 is the Ground Buster, which can even break concrete.

The Garden Works retail-based training and promotional support is showcasing three ways to help retailers adapt to modern consumer needs. GW45PLUS is an in-house programme that identifies projects customers want, Connecting People with Plants sees how merchandise and displays can be directed towards different groups and Living Walls helps retailers to understand this increasingly popular trend.

In brief

Green-tech is showing a range of catalogue products including biological controls as well as growing and irrigation solutions.

Novanna Measurement Systems is launching products for testing growing environments. It offers kit for checking pH, soil activity, soil density and nitrate levels and to analyse liquids and gases. The firm also supplies light and moisture meters, thermometers, weather stations, augers and spades.

If you are in doubt about which film to use on tunnels, ask bpi.visqueen. The company is providing technical advice relating to its range of SMART films. All its horticultural films are recyclable and you can find out about the services offered by sister company bpi.visqueen products.

Saving energy but providing safety and security in doorways and on pathways, the Curve (above) is a 50W equivalent motion-activated "welcome" light from The Solar Centre. The unit charges its internal batteries from the sun’s energy.

The Commercial Horticultural Association can help new or inexperienced exporters take their first steps into international markets. Find out more about marketing your products abroad.

Depending on voluntary donations to provide its advice, support and financial assistance to people in horticulture, Perennial is again attending this year’s show.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

Can UK fresh produce come out of Brexit ahead?

UK production horticulture can become more profitable under one possible Brexit scenario, while other more drastic scenarios will lead to only minor losses in profitability, in contrast to other farming sectors, according to a new report by levy body AHDB with Agra CEAS Consulting.

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

Business Planning - Staff are your greatest asset

An effective strategy to retain staff is the best way for any business to avoid a potential recruitment crisis, Neville Stein advises.

How should agri-tech research for fresh produce function in a post-Brexit UK?

How should agri-tech research for fresh produce function in a post-Brexit UK?

One area affected by the uncertainty around Brexit will be the ongoing development of agricultural technology, seen by many as essential to retain Britain's productivity and competitiveness in fresh produce along with other farming sectors.

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Google +
Horticulture Jobs
More Horticulture Jobs

Pest & Disease Tracker bulletin 

The latest pest and disease alerts, how to treat them, plus EAMU updates, sent direct to your inbox.

Sign up here

Professor Geoffrey Dixon

GreenGene International chair Geoff Dixon on the business of fresh produce production

Read Professor Geoffrey Dixon