His main aim was to increase the nursery's capacity and make it one of the UK's leading ornamental plant growers through acquisition of additional land combined with a high level of capital investment to maximise output and efficiencies. He also sought to broaden the business base through product diversification and strong customer relationships.
Indeed since then Neame Lea has increased its glasshouse production capacity from 1.2ha to 15ha, making it one of the UK's largest ornamental producers, as well as investing more than £12m in state-of-the-art facilities including a brand new site consisting of biomass boilers, ebb and flood benching and mechanisation for improved efficiencies and sustainability.
Employment has also boomed from seven full-time staff to 125, rising to 600 at peak times, making it one of the region's largest employers, while turnover has increased from £2m to more than £20m. Its range now includes cut flowers, perennials, herbs, shrubs and climbers; its year-round herb production tops 120,000 pots per week; and tulip production is expected to reach 40 million stems by 2018.
In 2015 Neame Lea beat off competition from more than 5,000 Asda suppliers to be named overall supplier of the year by the supermarket's supply arm IPL, thanks to its success in making horticulture Asda's top-performing category, delivering growth at a time when it was losing market share overall.
Neame Lea is continuing to invest in its horticulture facilities, to build an ambitious team to take advantage of the opportunities in the plant world and to help the ornamental horticulture industry as a whole move forward.
- See also Ornamentals Grower of the Year.