How did you get started?
I had an interest in all aspects of farming from a young age and enjoyed growing things on a small scale. I took a BSc in agricultural business management at the University of Reading, where I was fascinated by how hi-tech modern growing methods are. I learned more about these during a year-long work placement at a large soft-fruit grower — the level of sophistication there was mind-blowing.
My focus from then on has been on horticulture and my final dissertation was on out-of-season strawberry production, looking at the effect of temperature and photoperiod on the yield of strawberries under LED lighting. The university has incredible facilities for this, such as growth chambers, and my research was awarded the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers Student Prize for 2018.
My first job was with a glasshouse strawberry and raspberry grower
in Somerset that I started five days after graduation. Glasshouses let you grow fruit out of season, meaning that you have a longer supply of British-grown berries through the year.
I’m now with a similar but much larger grower in West Sussex. There is a drive for innovation here, to push forward strawberry production, that lets me put some of the research work I did into practice. The Chichester plain is a great place for growing, with high light levels and sheltered by the Isle of Wight.
It’s better to make opportunities, through promoting yourself in the industry, than to wait for them to come along. Neither of my jobs were advertised.