Lifetime Achievement Award - Winner: Nicholas Marston, Berry Gardens

Nicholas Marston has been at the centre of the boom in Britain's soft-fruit sector over the past 20 years, helping to make it the £1bn industry it is today.

Lifetime Achievement Award - Winner: Nicholas Marston, Berry Gardens
Lifetime Achievement Award - Winner: Nicholas Marston, Berry Gardens

Under his stewardship the Berry Gardens group of growers has become both the largest berry supplier and largest horticulture co-operative in the UK, its turnover growing from £18.5m 20 years ago to £300m today, with staff going from 12 to 300.

Now growing on more than 2,000ha it has extended the season and is meeting consumer demand in winter, pioneering exclusive production of proprietary varieties in the UK via its strategic partnership with US breeder Driscoll's.

Along the way, Nick oversaw the introduction of polytunnels in the late 1990s in partnership with Haygrove, one of Berry Gardens' largest growers - a move that has helped to extend the UK season from six weeks to more than eight months, while giving growers more control over growing conditions and hence fruit quality.

A further step was the introduction in 2004 of taller tunnels, again with Haygrove, to house cherry orchards, protecting fruit from the elements and birds, so yielding consistent high-quality UK cherries and enabling the resurgence of this market over the past five years - of which Berry Gardens growers account for some 70 per cent.

Having set a target of 10ha of British blueberry production in 2004, his Berry Gardens growers now have more than 158ha of blueberry production, and that figure that is still rising.

As a well-known and approachable industry figure, Nick has also been key to the success of the British Summer Fruits PR campaign, of which he has been a director since its inception, and has been pivotal in raising the profile of British berries with consumers. Nick has now announced that he will be retiring from the industry in July.


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