Steve Rothwell of Vitacress is one of the very few of whom this can be said, thanks to his ability to innovate across all areas of the business - from growing techniques and new varieties to new formats of salad and the environment.
For the past 30 years he has led a team of pioneering farmers committed to growing baby-leaf salad and watercress to high environmental standards. He has also played a major role in establishing watercress as the sought after "super food" it is known as today.
His many achievements include launching the first baby watercress to the UK market and playing an instrumental role in identifying a gap in the market for baby-leaf salads, resulting in the introduction of "washed and ready-to-eat" baby-leaf salads in a bag.
With the help of Delia Smith using the product on television, this innovation opened the market for the launch of the first salad rocket. Steve also pioneered the production of washed and ready-to-eat baby-leaf spinach for use in salad. Since then he and his team have introduced other new leaves to the UK including pea shoots, wasabi rocket, wild red rocket and fennel tops.
Also a pioneer in the field of education, where he became the first person in the UK to have a PhD in the physiology of watercress, Steve has supervised a number of PhDs at the Universities of Bath and Southampton.
His other major pioneering role has been in conservation and the environment. He founded the Vitacress Conservation Trust to focus on environmental initiatives associated with salad production and played a key role in the removal of chlorine for washing salad, introducing the concept of washing the leaves in pure spring water.
Finally, he has introduced modern crop nutrition and propagation techniques to improve watercress productivity and quality, while working on many research projects to improve the growing and processing of baby-leaf salad.