Managed by Tim Place, grandson of the founder of the business, the farm is spread over 480ha, of which 175ha are down to soft fruit including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. It has enjoyed vigorous growth since 2010, with production of strawberries up 67 per cent and raspberries up nearly 150 per cent.
The firm now employs more than 100 full-time workers and up to 500 seasonal staff. Four out of five seasonal workers return - a strong indication of their commitment. Growth has been accompanied by a revamped management structure to support staff development, while facilities for residential staff have been upgraded.
Place UK has also expanded its product range, partly to provide continuous employment. A 7ha cherry orchard has been planted, incorporating 11 different varieties for even production, with an expected yield of 170 tonnes.
Raspberry production has also been extended and evened out through variety selection, including long-cane forms, and careful management of the growing environment. It now also supplies inside and outside forced rhubarb to UK supermarkets for 10 months of the year. Measures to increase production have been matched by a £1m investment in a new packhouse (pictured) for prompt and efficient packing straight from the field.
Sustainability commitments include using energy from solar panels and heat recovery for refrigeration, minimising fruit wastage through processing, freezing or pureeing within the group. Water use is monitored using data loggers to ensure responsible use and to maintain quality, while areas of the farm have been set aside for wildlife.
- See also Edibles Grower of the Year.
G & G Sinclair, West Craigie Farm
Mack, new growing system - British strawberries - Tiptree
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