Meet the Fellows

2022 Fellows

Sam Brook

Senior Agronomist, Vitacress

Sam started his role as Senior Agronomist at Vitacress Herbs, Chichester in January 2022, which comprises overall responsibility for agronomy for the herbs produced on the site. This amounts to about 20 million pots a year; predominantly Basil, but also including other herbs such as Rosemary, Sage, Parsley and Coriander. It is a varied role with the main focus being on working with and advising the growing team, and extending to technical, consumer-facing and audit work too. There is a significant emphasis on technological development and efficiency gains, as well as an R&D budget to help achieve this. The pursuit of a peat-free substrate is a big focus, as well as a drive to make better use of data and technology to improve the growing process. Meeting quality and production targets is the main objective, so walking the crop and designing spray programmes and biological inputs to achieve this is the main responsibility, with other duties fitting in around that.

    Sam previously worked as a tomato grower for three years, and this is where his knowledge of protected cropping and year-round production, as well as climate-computer automation and crop nutrition was developed. Prior to this he was a Shipbroker, retraining via a MSc at Reading in Agriculture & Development.

“Within this new role I am really encouraged to innovate and investigate new production methods or potentially relevant technology, and I hope that this Fellowship will serve as a great vehicle for meeting like-minded people and presenting opportunities that otherwise might pass me by. I like the idea of a horticultural think-tank where we all contribute ideas and learn from each other. I also feel that we need to do more to promote the importance of horticulture so hopefully the LSA Fellowship platform will facilitate developing this narrative.”

James Crawford

Horticulture Centre Manager, Greenmount College

The Horticulture Centre grows a wide variety of crops including soft fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries), salads and leafy greens (lettuce pak choi, basil etc.), protected ornamental crops (spring and autumn bedding, Poinsettias), nursery stock (trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials) and cut flowers (lilies and tulips). James has been in this post for just over two years and enjoys the range of challenges this range of crops produces.

A typical day for him includes managing staff to organise crop management tasks, pest and disease monitoring, purchasing, organising tasks for students, planning for future crops, assisting to identify new technologies/crops for the Northern Ireland horticulture industry and overseeing a variety of investigations that are being carried out at the college.

Previously, James has worked in numerous different nurseries (nursery stock, cut flowers and salads) as well as a garden centre. He has also spent 1 year working in the USA, part of this time spent as a crop scout for potato crops, the other part of time time spent working for a large plug and liner producer.

“I believe that the Fellowship will benefit me in a number of ways. Firstly, I am very keen to discuss with the other Fellows and exchange knowledge and ideas, and help each other through our career development. Secondly, I am keen to be involved with many of the trade bodies, meet industry leaders, and learn about the role that the trade bodies have in communicating with government on behalf of the industry.

In the near future, I plan on completing both BASIS and FACTS certifications in Commercial Horticulture. I also hope that I can use my position as a Fellow on the scheme to gain new knowledge and new ideas to grow my career, wherever that may take me!”

Vicky Endersby

Nursery Operations Manager, Osberton Nurseries

Vicky’s involvement in the horticultural industry began when she embarked on a career change and applied to be on the Adam Frost Garden Academy. The Academy was created to encourage more people to consider horticulture as a career choice. On completion she became a Horticulture Manager for Wyevale Garden Centres before moving to Osberton Nurseries as an Assistant Production Manager in 2018.

Having since progressed to Nursery Operations Manager, Vicky is now responsible for implementing the correct processes and procedures across the 20ha site to efficiently grow 250,000, high quality, rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas for sale to UK garden centres yearly.

“Being accepted as part of the LSA Fellowship I hope will expand my professional network and allow me access to new perspectives, knowledge and ideas that I can utlise in my role at Osberton Nurseries to help better prepare us for any future changes or challenges that we face in the horticultural industry.”

Esmee Lai

In-House Agronomist, Emmett Farms UK Ltd

Esmee has worked for Emmett Farms UK Ltd for over 3 years now. The farming company is based in South Lincolnshire and grows four main crops – kale, cavolo nero, leeks and spinach – supplying major UK retailers. Prior to this she held a hands-on role on a farm growing a diverse range of fresh produce.

Esmee’s current role as an in-house agronomist is primarily focused on the production of brassica crops from the planning stages right through to point of harvest. Ensuring continuous availability and excellent quality throughout the season are her main objectives. Planning plays a key role in ensuring that the crop is harvested at its optimum, but on a day to day basis, this involves routine crop walking, monitoring levels of pests and diseases and taking frequent weights and samples.

“I am looking forwards to my time on the Fellowship scheme immensely. It will be great to meet with likeminded people to exchange knowledge and to share my passion for kale! I am excited to have been offered this unique opportunity to broaden my knowledge by seeing and experiencing aspects of horticulture which I am less familiar with. It is always great to learn something new! There are lots of areas within the industry that I am interested in – including developing new varieties with beneficial traits, improving crop health without using pesticides, understanding micro-nutrient management, increasing soil health and sustainability and envisioning the role that technology has to play. I hope to be able to explore these topics with the Fellowship scheme. With all the issues that we face in the industry, we need to be adaptable and dynamic to continue growing well. I am hoping that involvement with the Fellowship will help me to see where we are headed and perhaps even shape our direction of travel.”

Rosie Pash

Commercial Manager, APS Produce

Rosie has worked in her role as Commercial Manager at APS Produce since May 2021, with experience working with a range of retailers across the categories of legumes, brassicas and now salad.

Rosie holds an MSc. from Utrecht University, where her research focused on the impact of physical and chemical variables on crop yield and disease in the context of climate change.

“As part of the Fellowship I am looking forward to gaining a broader understanding of the challenges facing our industry and how we can share learnings and best practice to safeguard the British growing for the future.  Communicating ideas is one of the key aspects of my job so I am looking forward to developing my knowledge of growing and policy.”

Gemma Watson

Sales & Product Development, CN Seeds

The vast seed portfolio and services offered at CN Seeds means that Gemma’s role is hugely varied which she really enjoys. In this role, she works in both the sales and marketing team and the product development team.

On the product development side, Gemma is involved in a wide variety of trials including testing possible biostimulants to provide alternative protective seed treatments due to the changes in regulations. She is also developing priming protocols for herb and baby leaf crops to decrease the time to germination and increase the percentage of germination, which could both reduce the crop cycle and reduce the chance of seedling diseases.

Having grown up on an arable farm and studied Biochemistry at The University of Leeds, Gemma  completed the Management Development Services (MDS) graduate scheme. This involved working for an asparagus and blueberry farm, an industrial bakery and the agricultural solutions division of BASF. During this scheme she held a variety of roles, from HR and marketing to crop trials and harvest management.

“As part of the scheme, I am really looking forward to visiting various companies and creating networks with people across the industry. I am eager to keep well informed of the latest horticultural news, environmental and growing legislation and the newest technological advances. In addition, I am excited to improve my technical knowledge through the wide range of technical meetings offered over the two years.

My long term aspiration is to have the technical knowledge and holistic understanding of the horticultural industry so that I can help growers keep up with global food demands whilst jumping through the everchanging hoops of legislation.”

2021 Fellows

Rob Wickham

General Farm Manager, Bardsley England

Rob has worked for Bardsley England, a 5th generation top, stone and soft fruit grower/packer, supplying UK retailers for 2 years. Prior to this, he held other roles within the fruit industry, both in soft fruit and top fruit, for Haygrove and Adrian Scripps Ltd. Daily jobs involve the planning and scheduling of orchard tasks – both mechanical and manual, crop protection and nutrition as well as accurate budgeting and forecasting.

“Being accepted to partake in the Fellowship is exciting on many levels, not only to explore what lies ahead from a policy aspect (an area of my career I endeavour to explore further), but also for the learning opportunities which may present themselves across other sectors of the horticulture industry. I see the exchange of knowledge amongst my cohort of fellows and other professionals within the industry as extremely important and will hopefully accelerate my development and breadth of knowledge in horticulture.

In the future I hope to be an industry leader, specialising in producing fresh produce in a sustainable, regenerative approach and ultimately reversing climate change in the process.”

Lauren Hladun

Supply Chain Technologist, Manor Fresh Ltd

Lauren has been in her current role for close to 4 years and enjoys working in an ever developing, exciting and fast paced industry. Day to day, her role involves managing a range of growers and crops both in the UK and overseas, ensuring that supplier approval requirements are met and product quality meets the demands of their customers.

Coming from an arable farming family background, Lauren went on to study BSc (Hons) Agriculture at University of Nottingham. Outside of work, Lauren’s passion for horticulture and the great outdoors continues. She’s an avid beekeeper, enjoys exploring the countryside with her dogs and attempting to create new recipes in the kitchen using the crops she’s grown.

“I am delighted to have been selected to take part in the LSA Fellowship and am looking forward to meeting like minded peers who are equally as passionate about steering and shaping the future of the industry.”

Jed Knaggs

Crop Performance & Sustainable Growing Manager, The Summer Berry Company

Following four years of glasshouse growing since graduating in 2018, Jed has recently taken on a new role as Crop Performance and Sustainable Growing Manager. This broad role will see him working across multiple production systems and soft fruit crops with the challenge of improving growing and agronomy processes, managing all resources used on farms, managing all trials/R&D, extensive crop profiling and data management, production/farm compliance and auditing and taking the lead role on all new agricultural technology and environmental initiatives.

I am very much looking forward to learning more about how other producers of various crops operate and gaining transferable knowledge to bring back to The Summer Berry Company. Furthermore, this is a hugely exciting time to be involved with the fresh produce industry. Collectively we are faced with increasing food production whilst minimising resource use and our effect on the external environment. This can only be achieved with technologically and agronomically progressive growing with support from industry bodies and policy makers. Therefore I believe the LSA Fellowship will give me a great insight into how industry strategies and policies develop and influence food production.”

Isobel Tickner

Product Development Assistant, Tozer Seeds

Isobel has been in her role as a product development assistant at Tozer Seeds for over 3 years. Her role follows a product lifecycle from breeding and internal screening trials to pre-commercial trials with Growers, to develop new and improved varieties for the UK market.

Before Tozer Seeds, Isobel studied MSci Biology at Southampton University where she undertook field projects and a placement with the Hampshire Wildlife Trust, surveying invasive plant species in the New Forest.

The Fellowship scheme is a great opportunity to learn more about the wider horticultural industry and the interaction of trade, research and government organisations. The scheme provides the opportunity to join horticultural events, on a diverse range of topics that I would not access in my current role.

Ultimately, I would like to expand my knowledge outside of the seed industry and agriculture as well as build a network of professionals through the fellowship scheme. I hope to gain insight into new innovations and any challenges in the industry, which one day I can help to address in my future career.”

David Malcolm

Site manager, Worfield Plants

David has worked as site manager for Worfield Plants, part of the Boningale Ltd group, having previously worked within the Production department.

David’s position focuses on the production aspect of nursery life, from assisting the Production Director with the creation and management of production plans to involvement with the EMS accreditation for their site, looking at their environmental practices and taking part in the auditing process.

“The Fellowship represents an opportunity for me to open up my experience of the horticulture industry beyond the confines of my nursery (lovely as it is) and to see better how things are achieved, and the legislative bodies that are integral to those achievements. By interacting with my peers I hope to be able to advise and to be advised by those whose experience is at a comparable level to my own.

In the long run I hope the Fellowship will help me build my role at the nursery and have the connections and experience to evolve with it. I also hope that I can learn how the industry is being promoted to the younger generations and aspire to aid in that area myself.”

Ant Surrage

Technical Development Manager, Fargro

Ant has been with Fargro for just over 3 years. His role is to develop and test exclusive plant protection products (PPP) and horticultural/agricultural technologies for the Fargro portfolio of nationally exclusive products (NEPs).

“The LSA fellowship will benefit me by improving my understanding of how industry bodies devise strategies, develop new markets and lobby government. Within my role product approvals can often run on timelines of several years. So greater involvement and comprehension of the processes of industry bodies can inform development needs and thus allow me to better manage projects and product development based on industry demand.

The fellowship will help with my professional development and career objective of achieving a managerial role in UK horticulture. Being part of discussions with other professionals in the industry, learning from them and networking with other fellows will help me develop the skillsets I need for this.”

2020 Fellows

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!”

Vicky Smith

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.”

Richard Nuttall

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

Rebecca Smith

Technical Manager, Valley Produce.

Rebecca is currently Technical Manager at Valley Produce; a herb and Chinese brassica grower and packer in Berkshire.  She has been with Valley Produce for 6 years, the first two as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project with the University of Reading developing products from herb waste. Rebecca’s’ day to day responsibilities include: food safety, quality, legality, integrity and compliance with industry and retailer standards. She is also an Advisory Board member of the Horticulture Quality and Food Loss Network.

Prior to working at Valley Produce, Rebecca did a PhD at the University of Nottingham investigating genetic and biochemical traits associated with frozen fruit properties.

“The Fellowship will give me a wider view of the industry through interaction with other Fellows, businesses and organisations and widen the network of people I can call upon for discussion and advice on issues relevant to my company and career.  I also hope to gain a better understanding of how the industry trade bodies function, and how each body communicates with each other, the growers and the Government to draw down funding and influence policy to help businesses in the sector. Although it has been a strange year with the COVID pandemic, I’ve enjoyed meeting the other fellows virtually and we’ve shared information and advice related to our industry and roles which has been invaluable. It’s also been interesting to see how each other’s part of the horticulture industry has been affected by the pandemic.”

George Boreham

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.”

Valeria Kiss

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

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