Clock House Farm in Kent is one of the largest soft-fruit farms in the UK. In just six years, it has doubled turnover to £19.2m (2017) as a result of increased production across a longer UK season while introducing innovative, bespoke technology to maintain quality across a large scale and efficiently manage costs, staff and resources.
The farm has completely refurbished two redundant production sites to produce consistent high-quality blackberries over a longer UK season. The first 20ha tunnel site, cleared and rebuilt in just six months, has a planting layout that maximises efficiencies. In its first year, the site quadrupled production from 40 to 180 tonnes.
A glasshouse site has been refurbished with woodchip biomass to enable Clock House to extend the harvest period from April through to November. The farm uses a six-row tabletop system for all new sites to maximise efficiency.
To maintain the quality of its fruit, Clock House has welcomed technological advances and encourages innovation among its staff. The team has trialled and incorporated new husbandry techniques including the original design of a revolutionary cane fruit support system supporting both Primocane and Floricane raspberries with minor adjustment between crops. It is also easily adjusted to suit differing lengths of blackberry and raspberry laterals by using the "M" clip designed by the team that offers the best fruit presentation to pickers, and maximising light to ensure good fruit size and Brix levels. Use of this design has resulted in reduced picking, husbandry and installation costs.
Automated tunnel door opening throughout the farm means each door reacts to the prevailing weather conditions and can be opened and closed at different percentages to avoid extreme changes in temperature and atmosphere. The technology has been developed and installed by the management team over a four-year period at a cost of £350,000. Benefits include a reduced need for pest and disease control.
A precision irrigation programme across all substrate production has reduced water usage by 20%. Probes monitor moisture levels to ensure optimum irrigation is delivered to each plant, increasing yield of first class fruit while reducing reliance on labour. A bespoke IT Harvest Planning System has improved communication from planning to picking, enabling more efficient labour management and reducing waste.
Tim Stockwell, Barnsmuir Farm
CATEGORY SPONSOR: COCOGREEN
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