Horticulture Week Business Award - Soft-Fruit Grower of the Year

Winner - Boxford (Suffolk) Farms

Image: Boxford (Suffolk) Farms
Image: Boxford (Suffolk) Farms

Boxford (Suffolk) Farms is realising the benefits of a long-term business growth strategy that embraces the best growing, environmental and technological developments. The result has been a remarkable growth in turnover across nearly all categories of fruit, with soft fruit enjoying year-on-year growth of 30%.

Founded by Devora Peake in 1938, the family farm — a member of the Plantsman producer organisation and marketing group Berry Gardens — now grows strawberries, raspberries and blueberries alongside apples, cherries and asparagus across 250ha.

Wherever possible, Boxford has focused on producing high-value crops on the shoulders of the season. This has also resulted in it contributing to the introduction of a mixed berry pack stocked by Sainsbury’s and Tesco.

In April 2014, Boxford bought the gutted neighbouring Polehouse Nursery from the receivers and planted an autumn crop within weeks. In 2015 and 2016, in response to the minimum wage increase, the farm converted entirely to tabletop strawberry production in substrate.

Innovations include the development of one heated glasshouse for an early raspberry crop and another being used as a plant nursery for a late primocane crop so both can produce late on into December, satisfying market demand for both early and late UK fruit.

Boxford has been a quick adopter of Driscolls Lusa and Malling Centenary, with both now planted in December/January for the maximum early yield starting in March. Both can then be transplanted outside for a further year’s production.

This year will also see the expansion of Boxford’s blueberry operation, with the planting of the latest generation of varieties in ‘Barbara Ann’, ‘Sweet Jane’ and ‘Jolene’.

Airtight wasted fruit containers, strict field hygiene measures and barrier netting were introduced for all soft-fruit crops in 2017 to combat spotted-wing drosophila, resulting in no commercial damage on the farm.

Other developments include biomass heating, thermal screens and the Auto Agronom irrigation system. Boxford is also introducing air-to-air heat exchangers to reduce heat use, regulate temperature, cut costs and raise yields.

Ever the innovator, the business will also be participating in robotic harvesting, ultraviolet plant protection and LED trials this year as well as trialling new varieties.

Highly commended

  • Allen Innes, East Seaton Farm, Angus Soft Fruits

SEE ALL BUSINESS AWARDS 2018 WINNERS

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