News Maker - Raoul Curtis-Machin, head of horticulture, HTA

Raoul Curtis-Machin began work as head of horticulture at the HTA on 12 August after a career with the National Trust and in garden design and build, garden restoration, the media and estate management.

Raoul Curtis-Machin, head of horticulture, HTA - image: HW
Raoul Curtis-Machin, head of horticulture, HTA - image: HW

He follows Tim Briercliffe into a rejigged role at the HTA, in which biosecurity, skills shortages and grower-retailer relations are top of his priority list.

What does you new role involve?

I'll be working at the more technical end and with all the horticulture committees and also making sure the knowledge base is sound across all the different departments. I'll be making sure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet with the correct information about pests and diseases, for instance, and taking a lot of committees forward. I'll be finding out what's what and where the committees want to go next. It's going to be exciting.

Given your background is outside retail or commercial growing, is there a change in focus towards landscaping with your appointment?

I had a garden design and construction business, so the Association of Professional Landscapers (APL) will be a big part. But in the past two years at the National Trust I was working in commercial departments on its core range of plants and developing commercial gardening brands for the National Trust. I don't think my background reflects any significant change at the HTA.

How will you work with growers?

Largely through committees and also at the National Plant Show. I don't think there are proposals to change any structures within the HTA.

What are your priorities for your first six months at the HTA?

First, to look at how the committees work post the restructure, and who takes the lead. I'm also looking at grower-retailer relations after the bad weather this spring. With ornamental and protected growers, a lot of orders weren't taken up, so I'll be looking at how to help that relationship without stepping on people's toes and how to get a better understanding around the issues of why retailers have been ordering too much and growers producing too much. Research and development is another big one - trying to encourage more throughout the industry.

How can the HTA influence supply chain difficulties between growers and retailers?

The NFU is broaching a grower code of practice. The NFU membership is production, while the HTA represents the whole business, including retail. It's about getting that balance right when everyone has limited resources and time.

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