FW Mansfield farm offers job opportunities as new facilities are added to site

Dozens of new jobs are up for grabs at FW Mansfield & Son in Kent, thanks to the creation of a new £8.5m packhouse and storage complex.

The farm, in Chartham near Canterbury, celebrated the completion of its state-of-the-art facility with a champagne reception "preview" event held earlier this month, ahead of the official opening ceremony planned for this autumn when the packhouse is fully operational.

Business owner Paul Mansfield said: "As a result of this further expansion of our business at Nickle Farm we will be able to have more than 60 new full-time jobs for local people."

As reported on www.Horticulture Week.co.uk last week, Mansfield's decision to keep his existing packhouse - as opposed to replacing it with the new one as he had initially planned - has made the new job openings possible as he now needs twice as many staff.

The building of the facility was in part made possible with a grant of £1m from the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) and the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE).

Mansfield commented: "Our new packhouse and storage complex has been significantly helped by the award."

SEEDA's annual report, published earlier this summer, revealed that some 8,000 jobs have been created or saved with help from SEEDA, despite the economic downturn. SEEDA rural director Valerie Carter said: "We are delighted with the policy of using local contractors as much as possible, which Paul Mansfield has followed throughout the project, and also the many environmentally friendly aspects of the new build."

The temperature-controlled packhouse is part of a new 10,000sq m development, including a new chill/controlled atmosphere fruit store - which has been in use for a few months now - and chill dispatch area.

The packhouse will operate four top fruit graders - including a £750,000 French Maf grader - with all fruit being handled once.

A representative for Mansfield added that no pre-grading operation will take place, ensuring a more controlled stock operation where apples and pears are graded and packed in one operation. At the same time, fruit will be polybagged directly on the grader.

Water filtration units will be used to lengthen the life of water within the packhouse - making a saving of some 500,000 litres a year.

FW Mansfield, with 1,214ha of orchards throughout Kent, grows some 17 per cent of the UK's top fruit and packs some 25 per cent of it. The new investment will keep Mansfield at the cutting edge of the fruit industry.

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