Meet the Fellows

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

Lead Glasshouse Strawberry Grower, The Summer Berry Company

As a lead grower, Jed manages 16 hectares of glasshouse production supplying all major supermarkets with early and late season fruit. His day-to-day focus is primarily on glasshouse growing – managing climate control, fertigation and crop management as well as involvement with longer term planning, formulating crop/growing plans for future seasons.

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 Allensmore Nurseries in Hereford as a Supervisor. Prior to this she worked at Wyeplants, Lincolnshire for 3 years. Depending on the time of year she can be found putting together rotas for feeding, spraying, monitoring the health of the ornamental plants, and supervising staff. In 2020 she joined the YPHA and is hoping to finish her Mhot in the next 12 months.

“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

Crop Protection Manager, Viking Nurseries

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.

He began working for Viking Nurseries in 2009 initially to assist dispatch, then along side the General Manager. In 2013 he completed the RHS Level 2 in Horticulture and an NVQ 3 in Production Horticulture. Richard moved to Norway to work for Viking’s parent company Fritzøe Planteskole, learning about the production of roses and outdoor shrubs, controlling pests and diseases. In July 2018 Richard moved back to the UK and became the Crop Protection Manager for Viking Nurseries. His day to day tasks include: irrigation and nutritional crop assessment and R&D.

“I think the Fellowship scheme will help me understand my interests at a higher level, develop my knowledge regarding the leadership of the industry, how trade bodies work together and current research. It will also give me the opportunity to share my knowledge with other likeminded people and in turn, learn from them.”

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

Valeria has been a trainee Growing Manager at APS Produce Ltd for 3 years and is now in her final year of study. She originally started in the company as crop worker, pest and disease scout and grower’s assistant.

Her current role is to deliver top quality tomatoes to all of her customers throughout the season. Her responsibilities include: looking after glasshouse heating and ventilation strategies, watering strategies, monitoring the climate day to day, and pest and disease limitation. Valeria is currently also studying towards her Crop Technician certificate with Reaseheath College.

 “With the Fellowship Scheme I would like to take the opportunity to learn, also meet other people within horticulture industry to share our experience and knowledge. The chance to attend on conferences and to meet well experienced seniors could only improve my knowledge and future career…The Fellowship Scheme I think is a right direction towards this and hopefully the program will bring enthusiastic young growers together to maintain a competitive future for British horticulture.”

Follow Valeria @ValeriaKiss5

2019 Fellows

Charles Croft

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.”

Jason Daff

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.”

Lucille Gilpin,

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!””

Libby Rowland

Research and Development Manager, Vitacress Herbs.

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!

Daniel Meuldyk

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.”

Matt Boyns,

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.”

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