Posted by: DrAlanRae | January 20, 2011

Is sustainability the new Black?

Last week I was giving a talk on the Growing Jobs Project to the British Independent Fruitgrowers association’s Technical Day. This by the way was a research project I did last year into how to build a world class workforce for the horticultual industry.

What was particularly interesting was that all of the talks had working sustainably at the core of what the speaker had to say.

The science was all about managing pest control to minimize or eliminate pesticide residues with a lot of work being done at the East Malling research institute on that subject. We had a presentation on Garlic as a tree wash and natural insect repellent and two talks about managing labour in a way that increases how long it lasts. We’ll be selling the Garlic wash on our Intelligent Garden site.

The speaker from Waitrose was also explaining how they were building more longer lasting relationships with their growers while a very interesting talk was given by Emily Durrant who has worked with organisations such as Heineken and Bulmers and has done some work developing a sustainability index for fruit growers.

The index covered these dimensions

1. Farmer and Local Community
2. Social and Cultural Wellbeing
3. Environmental Pollution
4. Natural Resource Use
5. Biological Resources

Emily said that this sounds quite complicated but that it really boiled down to

Growing lots of quality apples at a fair price for a long time. That seems fair enough

The most serious thing that I took away was that the one thing that all the speakers referred to was the need to use water more effectively. There is certainly going to be increasing competition for water in the supply chain for fresh produce over the coming decades and all growers should have a strategy for dealing with this emerging issue.

I felt glad that we are following Lowaters in installing a rainwater harvesting system in our own nursery.



  1. Using garlic as a tree wash sounds like a remarkable idea and it’s great to hear British businesses are placing sustainability at the heart of their business practices. In Stirling, Scotland, we are currently working with all sorts of businesses (and communities) to help them reduce their carbon footprint and become increasingly sustainable. We are always looking for new ideas to suggest to businesses about how they can cut carbon and cut costs. Garlic tree wash is now on the list! Thanks.

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