Horticulture Week Business Award - Protected Ornamentals Grower of the Year

Winner - Bridge Farm Group

Neame Lea Nursery was a bedding grower based in Gosberton, Spalding, founded 40 years ago by Malcolm Barney, who sadly passed away in 2010. However, his family wanted the business to continue to be run with the same commitment and passion that Malcolm had for horticulture, and sold the company to David Ball.

After two years learning about the business, David took over as managing director in late 2012 and has driven the nursery forward with his enthusiasm, commitment and ambition. His goal was to significantly increase capacity and become a leading ornamental plant grower. This would be achieved through the acquisition of additional land combined with a high level of capital investment to maximise output and efficiencies. He also aimed to broaden the business base through product diversification and building strong customer relationships.

Over the past seven years, Bridge Farm Group has increased glasshouse production capacity at existing sites from 1.2ha to 15ha and invested more than £12m in state-of-the-art facilities including a new site with biomass boilers, ebb-and-flood benching and mechanisation.

In 2018, construction began on an additional 30ha site in Spalding at a cost of £18m to serve the expanding business. The new site will use the latest innovative horticultural technologies in automation and expand use of biomass boilers, a rainwater reservoir for irrigation and waste-reduction initiatives.

Employment has increased from seven full-time employees to 165 permanent staff, with more than 600 at peaks, making it one of the region’s largest employers. Group turnover has increased from £2m in 2010 to £27.4m in the past year and the business has developed sustainable relationships with key customers.

Bridge Farm Group has also expanded into other ornamentals including cut flowers, perennials, herbs, shrubs and climbers. This has been done by re-investing all profits back into the business with no outside finance other than bank loans.

Andrew Higginson, chair of Morrisons, Evergreen Garden Care and a number of other high-profile companies, joined the team in 2018 as chair of Bridge Farm Group to provide his expertise and guidance to support David in taking the company to the next level of its development.

Future developments will include diversification of the product range of the business to capture growth in the wellness market.

HIGHLY COMMENDED

Farplants

SPONSORED BY: SINCLAIR

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