Water-conscious companies reap awards for their efforts

Environment Agency hails water-saving growers

By Sophie Barnett A strawberry grower, a potato farmer and a salad and vegetable producer and packer have picked up awards for their water-saving strategies. The Environment Agency Water Efficiency Awards 2007 recognised all four of the water-conscious companies that made it into its agriculture and horticulture category. Norfolk-based soft fruit grower Place UK won a commendation for its continued drive towards water efficiency by buying its own soil-moisture measurement equipment so workers would know the best time to irrigate. Managing director Tim Place said the £13,500 investment to buy the Enviroscan equipment was easily repaid with better-quality fruit. “It’s helped in three areas — water saving, fruit quality and general efficiency, which is the only way forward. The tendency is to overwater but this device data-logs every couple of minutes so we irrigate on demand precisely,” he said. The company is saving some 6,000cu m of abstracted water a year, while the savings on producing better-quality fruit are significant. Mixed farm contracting company LF Papworth, which grows potatoes among other lines, reduced both water and energy usage through detailed irrigation work with Cambridge University Farms and Cranfield University. LF Papworth put into action a programme of inspecting fields to identify earth compaction and scheduling repairs quickly, allowing potato crops to root more deeply and have better access to water. Natures Way Foods, which produces pre-packed salads and vegetables for supermarkets and catering companies, has changed its practices to recycle 98 per cent of waste water into reservoirs to irrigate salad crops. The fourth award winner was Cambridgeshire-based ornamentals grower Tamar Nurseries.

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