Despite the onslaught of covid-19 disrupting day to day life for everyone across the UK, our Fellows have been working tirelessly across their business areas in the horticultural sector. During this time, we take the opportunity to find out more about one of our 6 first year Fellows, Jason Daff.
I am the Horticulture Manager within the Biology Department at the University of York, my work involves supporting a range of plant science activities by maintaining controlled environment growing environments and producing a range of high quality plants to support research projects. The plants we grow vary from model plants such as Arabidopsis and tobacco for fundamental plant science to pre-breeding research on important agro-economic crops such as rice, wheat and oil-seed crops. We also work a range of novel biopharmaceutical plants including poppies and Artemisia spp.
What is your day to day role?
What has been the most beneficial visit that you have attended as part of the Fellowship Scheme?
I have really enjoyed participating in the fellowship scheme, working in a research environment it is useful to be able to participate in industry events to keep abreast of technical developments; to this end I found attending the AHDB SmartHort event to be very beneficial. It has also been great to visit other fellow’s places of work, to see their facilities and how they go about producing their crops; there is much we can share and learn that are transferrable between crops and facilities.
What are your employer’s thoughts on your participation in the scheme?
The scheme has opened up a range of continuing professional development opportunities that I may have struggled to access without being fellow, training budgets can be tight so having access to funds to directly support my own CPD has been invaluable. My employer see my participation in the scheme as being complimentary to my development with benefits for them and me.
How have you kept in contact in contact with the other Fellows during the corona virus pandemic?
The global pandemic has forced us all to find alternative ways of communicating and maintaining contact, all the fellows have participated in several online video-meetings and have maintained contact via our WhatsApp group which has proved to be a really great forum for asking questions and sharing advice quickly and informally.
Has your day to day role changed due to covid-19?
The lockdown severely restricted the research work that we were able to undertake, luckily my team were able to continue working on a split-shift basis to maintain ongoing experiments so that minimal results were lost. The team were able to pick-up additional tasks such as data collection, pollinations and chemical applications that they wouldn’t normally have undertaken, which has helped to provide additional interest and responsibility. Things are slowly returning to normal and research work has now resumed so our glasshouses and growth rooms are steadily beginning to fill-up again, we now need to manage the process of changing from our split-shift working to socially distant full-team working.
How do you think Covid-19 will affect the industry?
Looking beyond the immediate short-term challenges of labour and disruption to established markets the outlook for horticulture should be positive. It was reassuring to see that during the lockdown there was a surge in interest in horticulture; people took to their gardens, started growing their own produce, were more appreciative of parks and greenspaces and saw first-hand the fragility of the food supply chains as people initially panic-bought food. The result of this will hopefully lead to a greater appreciation of British produce, spark a lasting interest in horticulture and possibly inspire a few to take up horticultural careers.
To find out more about the LSA Fellowship Scheme please email firstname.lastname@example.org