The Biennial UK Onion & Carrot Conference and Trade Exhibition opened its doors to delegates, exhibitors and speakers at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in the historic city of Cambridge on Wednesday 20 November 2019.
Tim Elcombe, Chairman of British Onion Producer Organisation, welcomed guests and introduced this year’s Main Sponsors, Bayer, Elsoms Seeds & Bejo who generously supported the conference.
Allan Wilkinson, Head of Agrifoods HSBC, took the space of the opening speaker with a presentation on “Excelling in a period of change, the UK food supply chain”. The presentation, which covered current talking points such as consumer trends, producer trends, drivers and solutions, was well received and started the conference off with great success.
Andrea Graham, Head of Policy Services for the NFU discussed “The Future of Food 2040” which gave a fantastic insight into the changes happening within the industry from food production, changes in diets and how this affects UK farming. Andrea then went onto discuss the opportunities the changes will provide and how this will influence productivity in British food and farming manufacturing.
The conference moved onto its Technical Session chaired by Chris Bettinson, Elsoms Seeds. The first speaker, Joseph Peller from Wageningen University Netherlands, presented their work on “Innovation in Disease Detection” and explained to the audience how spectral imaging works and how it can be applied. Joseph’s talk was kindly funded by AHDB. Joe Martin, AHDB, then took to the stage to update on the SCEPTREplus Project works on sustainable plant protection products.
Within the Technical session Stephen Jelley, Rootwave, presented their “Alternative Weed Control Methods” using their innovative electricity technique.
The conference delegates were then split into two groups for separate Carrot & Onion Technical Sessions. The onions session, chaired by Sam Rix, R&D Chair from the British Onion Producer Organisation, received updates from Angela Huckle, ADAS on the SCEPTREplus herbicide screens in bulb and salad onions; along with the latest news on the INNOVEG Project from Lizzie Sagoo, ADAS, and updates on Fusarium & White Rot from John Clarkson, Warwick University.
The carrots session which ran parallel to the Onion session was chaired by Ian Holmes, R&D Chair of the British Carrot Growers Association. The discussion was held in the Guildhall Council Chamber and opened by Lizzie Sagoo, ADAS, sharing the results from Year 1 of the INNOVEG Project. Hannah McGrath, a PhD Student from Rothamsted working in partnership with Huntapac, gave an overview of her project looking at conservation biological in carrots. The session was closed by Jack Hill from Bayer who gave some practical advice on Emerger, a new herbicide for Carrots.
The delegates then regrouped in the Corn Exchange for joint sessions chaired by Rodger Hobson, Chairman of British Carrot Growers Association. The Chairman introduced Anna Jones to the stage who spoke about her project Just Farmers, aiming to create more spokespeople to represent the industry. Dan Parker, Veg Power, then presented on the “Eat Them To Defeat Them” campaign proving that the media is having a positive impact on how eating vegetables is perceived by the influential audience and discussed future opportunities to get families to eat more vegetables.
Michael Barker from Fresh Produce Journal chaired the “Markets of the Future” panel session. The discussion involved Simon Pearce of Alfred G Pearce, Mark Tate of George Perry and Joe Shaw Roberts of Kantar, and covered how the future consumer will buy their fresh produce, how will they be influenced and how will the supply base react to market changes. The panel then took questions from the audience, concluding a successful session, one of the highlights of the conference.
Closing remarks were given by the British Carrot Growers Association Chairman, Rodger Hobson, who welcomed the delegates to celebrate the close of the 2019 conference with onion bhajis and beers.
The Dinner was then held at the Cambridge Corn Exchange, which was transformed into an elegant dining room. Guests were served a delicious three course meal and were entertained by a Magician who stumped a few delegates after he made their money and wine disappear. The evening was closed by an after dinner talk from John Bentley, a former International Rugby Player.
Without the support of the sponsors the event would not be possible. Thank you to Bayer, Elsoms Seeds & Bejo for their overall sponsorship. Interveg for sponsoring the Lunch, Bedfordshire Growers for the Post Conference Drinks Reception, Hazera for the Pre-Dinner Drinks sponsorship, Stourgarden for sponsoring the evening’s Dinner and Moulton Bulb Company for the Wine Sponsor.
Both associations would like to thank all those who attended and supported the event and made it a truly memorable day.