New plant finishing centre praised as industry example

The new Farplants finishing centre in West Sussex was officially opened last week.

The £2.75m centre, part-funded with a £500,000 grant from the South East England Development Agency, replaces the nursery group's dispatch operations in Littlehampton and is expected to handle up to 300,000 pots and 1,700 Container Centralen trolleys a day during the peak season.

Operations director Malcolm Iles said: "It's been a six-year journey and we now have the ideal site in the ideal location - it allows ease of operation and has also made a difference from a green perspective. By moving here, being surrounded by the nurseries, we have reduced heavy goods vehicle traffic in the area by 60 per cent."

He said the whole operation was reliant on a sophisticated IT system that tracks plants throughout the supply chain and allows customers flexibility when choosing labels and packaging.

"The view would be that this place is good for eight times the volume that we currently have, so it will do for the foreseeable future," he added.

The centre was opened by HTA director-general David Gwyther, who praised it as an industry exemplar.

Sales director Nick Richards said the centre was part of the group's long-term expansion plans. The company had set aside £19.4m in its 2011 budget for further sales and facilities growth, he added.

"We have been growing quite fast over the past few years," said Richards. "There are plans for expanding the business in the future and we are looking for greater efficiencies because it's a very competitive market."

Gwyther said of the project: "This is a huge step forward and an exemplar for the wider UK garden industry. I congratulate Farplants for leading the way."

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