FW Awards 2017: Specialist Crop Producer of the Year

Kent-based family business AC Goatham & Son is pushing British top fruit to the fore, leading the revival of British pear growing by investing millions to better compete with our European neighbours.

By growing earlier-maturing varieties, AC Goatham is also seeking to take on apples coming from continental Europe, where harvest tends to start a few weeks before the UK.

See also: Read about all the Specialist Crop Producer of the Year 2017 finalists

AC Goatham & Son

Flanders Farm, Rochester, Kent

The business is pushing to get to the point where consumers will be able to buy British apples throughout year, aiming to grow enough fruit to continually supply British eating apples.

Winning Ways

  • Ambitious plans to get British apples and pears in supermarkets year-round
  • Investing heavily in modern technologies and techniques
  • Identifying value-added opportunities such as “ripe and ready” pears
  • Infectious enthusiasm for British top fruit

AC Goatham is Sainsbury’s largest supplier of apples and pears, but also supplies supermarkets Aldi, Morrisons and Iceland.

The business prides itself on having some of the UK’s most modern orchards and has undertaken the largest pear tree planting project in decades.

The team has adopted modern growing techniques used by Dutch and Belgian growers, as most traditional pear orchards are archaic and under-productive.

Compared with the UK average yield of 17t/ha, trees grown in this new system are averaging about 25t/ha and this is expected to rise to about 65-70t/ha once the orchards reach maturity.

This system also means the fruit is easier to pick and requires less handling, which is helping to bring down production costs and drive up efficiency.

Identifying a big market for “ripe and ready”, where pears are taken out of cold storage to ripen before being sent to supermarkets, has helped raise consumer interest and demand for pears as this means they can be eaten on the day of purchase.

Specialist Crop Producer of the Year 2017 is sponsored by Arysta LifeScience

Finalists were:

  • William and Caroline Alexander, Castle Farm, Shoreham, Kent
  • Southern England Farms, Leedstown, Cornwall
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