Virginia Aurora Colquhoun Gonzalez Grower Supervisor, Allensmore Nurseries
Virginia studied horticulture and forestry in Spain where she grew up and has been involved in the industry for most of her working life, beginning with fighting fires in the Spanish forest. She finished her studies in 2011 and decided to move back to the UK in 2013 to work in commercial horticulture.
Virginia recently joined Advanced Growers Ltd (AGL) in Hereford as a Head Grower. Prior to this she worked at, Allensmore also in Hereford for 3 years. AGL is a fairly new venture, with Hydroponics as one of its key features. In 2020 she joined the YPHA and was made Judge for Green Flag Awards, and 2021 was the year that she obtained her MHort with the RHS. After spending most of her career in ornamentals, Virginia now grows herbs with hydroponics.
“I hope the scheme lets me understand better how the industry works as a whole, to allow me to keep learning of new techniques and technologies. I wish to meet new people, but also to allow me to catch up with more familiar faces in the horticulture trade. My view long term is to be able to help the industry move forward, adapting to changes but also be the change when necessary. To help inspire young people to join us and make them see it can be a highly rewarding industry. All this while aiming for a personal successful career in which I am excited to see where it can take me!”
General Communications Officer, Organic Research Centre (ORC)
Vicky works as a Communications Officer at the ORC, who is the leading independent organic research organisation in the UK. She has been in the role since September 2020 and her role centres around ensuring clear internal and external lines of communication, whilst also making sure the ORC’s message and logo are recognisable and consistent.
Prior to working at the ORC, Vicky held two Technical roles which included being a Technical Manager at Red Tractor Farm Assurance, where she was responsible for managing both the Combinable Crops & Fresh Produce standards. Through this role she became interested in the horticulture sector.
“I believe that taking part in the Fellowship scheme will be beneficial for a number of reasons but fundamentally I believe that it will widen my understanding of the sector, enable me to meet and make useful contacts and help to equip me with the skills needed for a future in the industry. Having the opportunity to gain knowledge from industry leaders and organisations will be of great benefit and enable me to gain understanding of current and future research and challenges within both the protected edible sector and the horticulture industry as a whole.”
CEO of Coco Ease and freelance Technical Consultant
Richard studied Countryside Management at Easton College in 2003. After which he worked as a greenkeeper for 4 years, increasing his skills by studying an NVQ 2 in Turf Management, PA1 & PA6A. From here he moved to Viking Nurseries. In 2013 he completed the RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and an NVQ 3 in Production Horticulture.
“During the summer of 2021 I stepped down from full-time employment at Viking Nurseries to focus on my own
projects in Sri Lanka.
I will be spending the most part of 2022 in the UK focusing on substrate research and getting my new company Coco Ease into a position to start the importation of coir into Europe.”
Follow Richard @ RichardNuttal17
Breeding Nursery Manager, Edward Vinson
George is the Breeding Nursery Manager at Edward Vinson, he has been in the role for 1 year and 6 months. He is responsible for managing the glasshouse: from seeds to seedlings, to ensuring the plants leave in a healthy condition
George studied Plant Science at Canterbury Christ Church University. During his studies he worked for Driscolls and FAST (Fruit Advisory Service Team), where he gained a valuable insight into the soft fruit industry, helping his passion for plants, develop. “There is huge potential to expand new varieties into foreign soils and I’d love to be at the forefront of this one day.”
“As a new manager at my company I believe the Fellowship would give me a boost of confidence alongside establishing valuable friendships and contacts in the industry. I believe my current knowledge, ideas on future policy and self-motivation would be an asset to the Fellowship scheme and the cohorts. There will be a vast number of people in the industry I can connect with and share ideas with. It will be a great chance to gain knowledge and by doing so an opportunity to then transfer that to my own place of work at Edward Vinson and my future career in horticulture.”
Trainee Growing Manager, APS Produce Ltd
After 13 years in protected tomato growing, Valeria has decided to open a new chapter in her career. In 2022 she joined Place UK, one of Britain’s leading fruit growers, IQF suppliers and food processing plants. She is responsible for overseeing the crop growth and integrated pest management project on over 85ha of fruit crops.
“Soft fruit growing is a very challenging area, but with a highly professional team around me, I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings. Along with the LSA Fellowship Scheme, I would like to encourage young people who are interested in horticulture, to join us. It is a surprisingly exciting, and rewarding journey. We are all proud to contribute to the local economy and be part of one of the most important industries in the country.”
Follow Valeria @ValeriaKiss5
Growing Manager, APS Group
“Being part of the LSA Fellowship scheme has been a real privilege. I have attended multiple events that have been both interesting, thought provoking and useful in terms of taking ideas back to my place of work. Many of the events I would not have normally got the opportunity to attend and have benefited me hugely in terms of career development. I also feel the whole process has given me a much better understanding of the horticultural industry. All of the fellows are extremely knowledgeable and having the chance to discuss the similarities and differences between how our businesses operate has really opened my eyes to different ways of working and thinking. There is a huge range of diversity in terms of the different areas of the horticultural industry each fellow works and this has meant I have been able to learn a lot about areas of the industry I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. I would highly recommend the LSA fellowship scheme to any young person who is looking to expand their knowledge and understanding of the horticultural industry.”
Horticulture Facilities Manager, University of York
Jason is the Horticulture Team Manager within the Biology Department at the University of York. In this role he is responsible for maintaining controlled environment growing facilities and providing plant husbandry advice to scientists. The research work spans from fundamental plant biology using model plants to near-market breeding and agronomy trials using major economic crops.
Jason studied Horticulture at Pershore College and has previously held roles with the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge and in crop protection research and development for Syngenta.
“I have found being part of the fellowship scheme very useful, attending various meetings and conferences has been particularly useful for exposing me to a wider range of issues facing the horticulture industry. Perhaps the most rewarding aspect has been forging relationships with my fellowship colleagues; sharing our experiences and knowledge informally has helped me think about different ways to solve problems faced in my own work.”
Horticultural Technologist, DAERA – CAFRE Greenmount
“I have had a fantastic year with the LSA CT Fellowship Scheme, I have learned a lot from our group, ranging from helping combat powdery mildew issues to how to make a good working environment. I believe my experiences gained have been vital in my progression within my personal and career development, with the conferences, contacts and general chat, I have gained much more confidence in myself allowing me to achieve fully in my current role. We have attended a wealth of conferences, meetings and more recently webinars, allowing us to make further connections in the industry. We all have different backgrounds within horticulture so it made conversations really interesting especially during Covid. The group is now my go-to group for all problems relating to horticulture!””
Research Agronomist, Small Robot Company.
“I joined the LSA Fellowship scheme in 2018, supported by my then-employer Vitacress Herbs, where I was responsible for research within the agronomy team for three and a half years. In November 2021 I joined Small Robot Company as Research Agronomist. The company develops robots for scouting of field crops. My role is to undertake research, collect field data and advise on agronomic topics.
The LSA Fellowship Scheme has been a wonderful opportunity to meet others in the industry, to learn from each other and to engage with industry leaders at a number of different events.
My time as a Fellow will end in December 2021, but I now have a network of other like-minded people who I can collaborate and share knowledge with. I wish the current and future fellows all the very best. The Scheme gives back what you put in, so make it yours!“
Grower Manager, James Coles & Sons Nurseries Limited
“I currently work at James Coles Nurseries growing and supplying hardy nursery stock for a wide range of customers. I joined James Coles as a 16 year old not really knowing what horticulture was, but I have learned a lot along the way.
I have worked for James Coles for 18 years, progressing though the Company, spending my first 10 years in Tree Production learning news skills such as chip budding, fruit training and learning the tree names and requirements.
Following this, an opportunity came up as Grower Manager at our Syston site. Growing hardy shrubs was a new challenge for me as I needed to learn about a whole new crop of plants. However, this has given me a good insight into both sides of the business which has helped to widen my knowledge.
Within my time in this role I have had the opportunity to complete multiple courses such as Horticulture Level 2 and have gained two Spraying Licences.
I see myself as more of a hands on sort of guy that enjoys getting stuck in and getting my hands dirty. I hope to continue progressing in my role and to gain a broader knowledge of the industry as a whole.”
Procurement Manager, Bakkavor
“After graduating in Mechanical Engineering, I took a temporary procurement position at Chingford Fruit Packers where a passion for produce was ignited. 3.5 years later, I moved to dps where I undertook a 6.5 year stint in fruit purchasing and account management roles. In 2014 I joined the salad grower PDM Produce as a commercial manager, a role which required exceptionally close relations with the farming side of the business. A deep passion for British farming and industry developed and in 2018 I joined the salad and herb supplier JWE.
Professionally I have been commercially focused, yet I’m inquisitive and have always taken every opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the produce business, especially in the science and real-world practicalities of growing. With interests in automation and mechanisation along with development of new cultivars, gene editing and breakthrough technologies such as AI and CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, it is truly an exciting time to be alive with the world developing at such pace.
I hope to develop a cross category voice that will be far more coherent and influential than a single esoteric opinion. I hope to eventually be involved in the introduction and commercialisation of the great work done by our scientists and technologists looking for routes into industry.”