Situated between the Solent and the New Forest National Park, New Forest Fruit enjoys one of the earliest growing seasons in the UK.
Glass house picking started 25th March, French tunnels (unheated) started 10th April, and some Spanish tunnelled Everbearers are just starting now.
"Volumes are building up nicely, we harvested 165 tonnes this week," said Vince Wheller, Production Director at the company. "We will reach the season's peak mid to late May harvesting 250-330t per week."
According to Vince, demand for English fruit is curbed by imported Spanish strawberries.
New Forest Fruits have been working with Tortuga AgTech on harvesting robots, which are currently working in the glass houses, but they are still in the development stage and learning.
Robotic technology is not yet being used for other tasks, but the remit is to have simple husbandry tasks completed robotically in the future.
Vince said that the increasing costs for energy, packing, labor, etc., will be extremely challenging. "It will inevitably have an impact on profitability, we are working hard to further improve our efficiencies and picking speeds (motivation and picker performance rewards), increase our fruit size, lift our prices from retailers, which can be very challenging, and save all unnecessary costs."
The company is just about OK right now for labor, but they are always just behind the ideal number and are constantly working to keep the staffing level full.
For more information:
New Forest Fruit
Tel: +44 (0)1590 612297