Arriving at the Four Oaks Trade Show your senses will be filled with the sight and smell of fresh plant material. But there is more to this show than cuttings, plugs, trees, shrubs, flowers and seeds. You can also see the latest in glasshouse technology, nursery machinery, growing media, fertilisers, pots and containers, retail products and more.
Glasshouses, polytunnels and equipment
On stand A57, HBS Designs managing director Dave Warnett and chief design engineer Martin van der Kooij will be on hand to discuss glasshouse renovation and construction with commercial growers and garden centre managers. The company undertakes full-turnkey projects and offers specialist advice on any aspect of the controlled environment, including second-hand glass and screens.
On stand E107/108, commercial glasshouse specialist Ebtech will be illustrating recent projects including Venlo structures and discussing services such as biomass boilers, screening, climate and irrigation controls, benching and heating systems.
A greenhouse with a fully opening roof can be discovered on stand OP33, where Naturelight Greenhouses will be exhibiting under the banner: "Managing the climate as nature intended." For growing and retail environments, Naturelight's patented roof design allows more than 90 per cent controlled access to the elements, cycling from closed to open, or open to closed, in one minute.
Probably the largest UK manufacturer of polythene and PVC-clad structures, North Polytunnels & Horticultural Supplies will be on stand OP16b/17. As well as single-span tunnels, multi-span structures and extra-high and wide-span polyhouses, the company offers complete growing solutions including water collection and storage, heating, ventilation, air circulation, benching, crop-support systems, dehumidification and twin skinning.
Heating specialist Boiler Spares (NW) will feature the new Powrmatic CPx freestanding heater, powered by oil, natural gas or LPG, on stand D22/23, along with a selection of Munters products. Managing director Peter Smethurst will offer no-obligation advice on product selection, whether a wet heating system in oil, gas or biomass, a warm air system or cooling, recirculation and ventilation.
Bringing nine years of experience with renewables technologies to the show, HTA CRoP partner Ecovision will be on stand D52a. Commercial manager Tony Budd will inform visitors how installing a renewable energy system can reduce annual energy spend by up to 50 per cent and entitle the business to Government incentives, providing quarterly payments for 20 years. "Renewables technologies often pay for themselves within six years, leaving many years of remaining payments to reinvest in your business," he says.
Bringing an engineering approach to LED plant-growth lighting technology, PhytoLux will be exhibiting its Attis-7 on stand C74a. "The Attis-7 has been developed in conjunction with a number of UK research scientists, horticulturists and growers to provide a generic, low-energy and commercially viable option for growers to extend the growing season," says marketing manager Neil Brassington. "With proven field results, the Attis-7 uses a passive cooling system, consumes less than 206W and has a physical footprint comparable to that of the equivalent high-pressure sodium alternative."
But much of the attention on the PhytoLux stand will be directed at the planned launch of the Attis-Panel. Brassington adds: "This is a thin-profile, low-energy LED system with up to nine wavelengths that are individually programmable. The panel has been designed in conjunction with Unigro, one of the UK's leading controlled-environment companies, with support from the plant sciences department at the University of Oxford. The Attis-Panel provides a fully controllable solution for university and research growth chambers, and for use in vertical and urban farming."
Sharing stand D94, DS Hortitrade and Debets Schalke are planning several promotions including new recirculation fans priced at EUR168 as well as a special offer on new 30,000sq m greenhouses.
Nursery machinery and equipment
The range of nursery machinery available from Mechanical Botanical is vast. The company supplies everything needed for pot washing, tray filling, seeding, transplanting, potting labelling and sweeping up afterwards. But the focus of its stand (A11-15) will be on transport.
"This year we are bringing Verhagen Leiden's range of tugs," explains director Mike Berry. "The electric Multi-Mover XL allows you to easily move your trailer with a weight up to 3,500kg and easily manoeuvre it across a flat surface. Thanks to the special tyres and drive, it can be used on both hard and soft surfaces."
Also on display will be the Danish trolley tug, a new solution for transporting Danish containers or Container Centralen carts across ground-cover cloth in the greenhouse and through the nursery. "With the Danish trolley on the transporter you can move the cart across the fabric in your glasshouse, with minimal physical effort and without damage to, or traces left on, the ground cloth," says Berry. "The powerful drive engine enables you to drive from the cloth onto cement pathways."
The tugs are equipped with large, wide wheels and fully adjustable drive so appropriate speeds can be selected. The Danish trolley shelf destacker from Horti Innovations, sold in the UK by Mechanical Botanical, will also be exhibited.
For international transport, Merzario will be discussing options for sea and air freight as well as customs clearance and delivery on stand E92a. The company works with garden centres and suppliers throughout Europe.
There will be more transport solutions from Castlefield Products on stand C14-15a. The company offers a comprehensive range of handling products for horticulture, garden centre and soft-fruit industries.
More nursery and glasshouse solutions will be available on stand OP16, where WS Barrett & Son will display kit including the Beva Tug, now becoming a popular solution for towing Danish trolleys and other units up to 480kg. Offered in standing or sitting versions, this electric tug is powered by two 12V batteries and boasts regenerative charging. A full charge lasts an eight-hour working day at 50 per cent duty cycle.
Barrett's exhibit will also include 500- and 1,000-litre compost mixers. These mobile units feature a swivel chute on the upright auger to enable direct feed into a tray filler or rotated back into the mixer for filling larger containers.
An answer to sowing large seed, such as peas, corn, squash and pumpkins, will be offered by Hamilton Design on stand C16/35, as it introduces the Mega Drum Kit accessory for the Hamilton Drum Seeder. "This kit allows much larger and heavier seeds to be sown than with the standard drum," explains director Richard Hamilton. "It will retrofit to all existing Hamilton Drum Seeders and once installed it can be switched back to use the conventional drum in a matter of seconds."
The kit is supplied with everything needed to get the grower started, including a new vacuum source, manifold and pipework as well as a drum and a vacuum cleaner for removing excess seeds. The new drum features an outer sleeve that can be replaced when changing seed sizes or trays.
Also on Hamilton's stand will be the Handy and Natural Seeders as well as the TEA CUBE600N transplanter and the RAP-XRL self-contained trimming machinery for nursery stock in pots.
The Wireless Transplanter will be featured by Rotomation on stand A16-22. With no mechanical adjustments and using interchangeable fingers to cope with small or large plants, it can work with any tray combination. Tray washers, tray fillers, drum seeders, potting machines and spraying equipment will also be displayed.
Capable of automating processes such as peat blocking, sowing, sticking cuttings and grading, systems from Flier will be on stands D122a-123a. The company's drum seeder DS11 and Germination Vision System PM31 are expected to come under the spotlight.
Growing media, fertilisers, crop protection and pots
Four Oaks is the place to see the latest in products, including growing media, fertiliser and pots and containers. In 2016, Petersfield Growing Mediums (stand C50) will be celebrating 25 years supplying peat-free composts. Sales manager Neil Williams reflects: "It is interesting to see what has and has not happened since then. However, we still manage to find improvements in both the recipes and the raw materials."
In recent years there has been renewed interest in higher-quality retail products. "Because of this, sales of our retail products have increased, with excellent repeat sales," adds Williams. "Our retail products use the same raw materials and ingredients as our professional range, and do not contain any recycled or waste products.
"Our third-party contract, product development, production and bagging service has grown beyond all expectations over the last few years. This together with strong sales of our own products has given us the confidence to make a major investment in new bagging and automated palletising equipment, giving us improved reliability, increased capacity and better presented products."
Melcourt (E148a) will be relaunching its Silvamix professional peat-free growing media. "For too long UK growers have felt that to grow without peat meant to compromise on quality and price," says technical director Catherine Dawson. "But Silvamix enables growers to produce consistently excellent plants at an extremely cost-effective price."
Jiffy Products continues to develop its Born Sustainable principle with all product ranges now featuring peat-reduced and peat-free options, including Coir Growbags and Growblocks. More details and Jiffy's latest propagation solutions will be available on stand C22-19. On stand B86, Deco-Pak will focus on promoting Chelsea Garden Range growing media, which incorporates potting grit, sharp sand and Lytag.
Since last year's show, Everris has united with other companies in the ICL Group to form new global company ICL. Strategic alliances in the group should lead to an expanded product offering, while planned expansion of ICL's laboratory and in-field research capabilities is set to accelerate product R&D, including soluble and controlled-release fertilisers. For the moment, however, ICL is entering the peat-free market with the launch of Levington Advance Sustain on stand B31-32/40/51-52.
"This new professional range has been carefully designed utilising our increased knowledge of peat alternatives and with the growing availability of quality raw materials including Fibagro - our professional-quality wood fibre product processed using the latest technology," explains Adam Ferjani of ICL Prof Hort Marketing.
There are also improvements to the standard professional growing media range, now rebranded Levington Advance. "Levington growing media is renowned for its quality and consistency," says Ferjani. "Levington Advance products have been enhanced with Micromax granular micronutrient and H2Gro - our quality wetting and water-conservation agent. By enhancing performance, the range has been carefully formulated to increase quality and return on investment as standard."
For growers preferring a custom mix, Levington Advance Solutions is ICL's newly branded complete solutions package. A new systemic fungicide will also be launched at the show - ICL's Avatar.
For more crop-protection products, Agrovista will have the latest chemicals, biopesticide and stimulant products on stand D131-132, along with growing media, pots and containers, cleaning agents, polythenes and fabrics.
BlocCade - physical coating for protecting plant wounds against bacterial and fungal infections such as fruit tree canker and dead arm disease - will be launched by Fargro on stand C69-81. Elsewhere on the stand, visitors can inspect a wide range of containers including new designs of rattan-style baskets plus a new range of wooden, ceramic and galvanised planters. Look out, too, for new containers from CTi Plastic, including new colour finishes to appeal to growers and retailers as well as a range of Christmas pots, containers and decorations.
The full set of new NexTraY marketing tray range will be on Desch Plantpak's stand (C36-38/53-55). The 17 new tray sizes feature a strong and rigid structure, smooth edges for safe handling and improved all-weather packaging. Made of 100 per cent recycled and recyclable material, they come in sizes to fit all pots from 9cm to 17cm in diameter. Show-only introductory offers will be available.
Rootrainers propagating products are now exclusively manufactured and supplied by Tildenet. They will be showcased by the company on stand E96-97, along with a comprehensive range of weed controls and crop-, grassand ground-protection solutions.
Modiform prides itself on innovation. Each year it designs 100 new products, with the total narrowed down to 50 items for production. Growers, retailers and consumers are consulted each step of the way. Some of this year's developments will be on stand D27-30/63-66, including Multi-carry packs produced in partnership with LS Systems. The pack can hold five 9cm pots or four 9cm pots and one 13cm pot, and sit 14 per trolley shelf.
"The idea behind the pack was to allow growers to offer their customers the chance to reach a lower retail price point compared to the standard 6x9cm carry pack. This was achieved by putting one 9cm pot in each corner and then one 9cm pot in the middle. It was quickly realised that it would be a great idea if the centre pot could be interchangeable with a 13cm pot," explains Modiform UK sales manager Shaun Herdsman.
Another exciting development from Modiform is injection moulded bowls available in six bright colours to appeal to bedding plant growers. But Four Oaks visitors should also look for its new ranges of patio planters, presentation trays and shuttle trays. The company says its innovative Aqua-Pad-in-Tray can reduce retail sector plant losses by 10 per cent.
Aeroplas (B105/106), Soparco (D35-36/57-58) and Poppelmann (D122-114a) are among the other exhibitors displaying ranges of pots, trays and containers for growers.
First-time exhibitor Poterie Goicoechea (E263) will attend Four Oaks to show its contemporary and classical collections of pots, vases and urns. Various colours and finishes will be available, including natural, grained and hammered, terracotta, silvery grey, black, orange, red, green and antique.
New company Wholegreen, exhibiting on stand E193-195, began trading this year and comes to Four Oaks with a wide range of pots and other garden planters to supply to the trade. Included in the line-up for 2016 are lightweight cubes, long toms and troughs as well as glazed pottery in various shapes and sizes, together with traditional terracotta-based products. Already working with 250 UK customers, Wholegreen operates with a charitable ethos and makes a donation to the Gardeners' Royal Benevolent Society for every product sold.
Pre-packed bird food will come under the spotlight on stand E164, where Bartholomews Agri Food will be offering wild bird foods, while Supa will be exhibiting its range of Contemporary Wild Bird Feeders on stand E164.
The increasing popularity of artificial grass will be demonstrated by Lawns 4 Living, showing nine new qualities with 15-40mm piles on stand E196. Sample and display stands will also be on show.
Should you see any customers struggling with their purchases, be sure to view the improved Plant Carrier Bags and new dispenser box from Alpha Packaging on stand D41a. Ideal for carrying plants and minimising damage, the flat, degradable polythene carriers have handles, retain water spillage and are a cost-effective alternative to cardboard.
Four Oaks Trade Show 2015 - seminars
Andrew Wilson and Dr Jim Smith, technical managers at ICL, will be introducing the latest technical advances to Levington growing media.
Wilson will discuss controlled-release and water-soluble fertilisers, looking at trends and how to maximise nutritional programme performance. Together with Dr Colin Mumford of Bayer Crop Science, Wilson will analyse the merits of year-round vine weevil control and introduce a new ICL fungicide in partnership with Bayer.
The half-hour events, hosted in the main seminar marquee with refreshments available, will be held at 11am, 12pm and 2pm on 8 September and at 10.30am, 11.30am and 12.30pm on 9 September.