Horticulture Week Business Award - New Business of the Year

Winner - Westlands Farm

Westlands is a mixed family farm in southern Hampshire. Up until 2017, it consisted of traditional livestock enterprises supplying its own farm shop and café together with an arable farming business managed by the Colletts.

The family wanted to develop the business and soft fruit, specifically strawberries and raspberries, were a natural fit. While the majority of production would be for sale through major retailers via Berry Gardens, Westland’s farm shop and café, a hub for the local community, would also benefit from having great-quality local fruit produced at the farm.

In 2017, the Westlands team set themselves a challenge to harvest their first crop of premium strawberries and raspberries in just six months. The farm’s southerly location would provide an opportunity for early production. With the help of Berry Gardens, they devised a business plan with the ambitious goal of harvesting for the 2018 season.

In just six months, the business transformed an existing glasshouse nursery used for flowers into a state-of-the-art soft-fruit production site. The glasshouse required complete renovation, including tabletops, irrigation and heating. The irrigation system, adopted from Spain, is the first of its kind in the UK. It ensures efficient water use and well-balanced control of nutrients, resulting in consistently top-quality fruit.

Driscoll’s Maravilla and Malling Centenary varieties are grown. Being a Berry Gardens member gave access to Maravilla, the premier variety with unilateral market acceptance. Malling Centenary is one of the most popular strawberry varieties due to its fruit size and outstanding quality.

In their first year of production, the farm has picked 33 tonnes of strawberries and raspberries, supplying two major retailers and several wholesale customers. They have also managed announced audits of the farm and achieved Red Tractor Fresh Produce assurance, Nurture and LEAF accreditation.

The farm has already doubled its glasshouse production by converting more of the site to soft-fruit growing. The new glasshouses also required complete refurbishment with a view to starting production with additional Maravilla in April 2019.

New tunnels are being established to ensure a consistent supply of fruit and to begin to build the critical mass of the business. The production area will go up from 2ha to 4ha in 2019 and the farm will increase production to more than 100 tonnes.

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