Update on Lowaters visit

One of the companies I interviewed on the project was Lowaters. In addition to kindly providing on one of our case studies, one of their directors, Charles Carr was also carrying out a project – this one on water recycling.

You see the water industry has woken up to the fact that we are likely to start seeing difficulties with water supply – and countries where food is grown for us such as Spain and Italy are very much in the front line. Already it’s nearly impossible to get a new water abstraction licence in the South East as a commercial grower. So there is some real interest in water recycling – and until it’s abolished SEEDA is offering 40% grants for water recycling projects. Since we have about 2 acres of glass here it’s clearly of more than academic interest to our own nursery- in fact we’re at the grant submission stage ourselves having already jumped through the planning permission hoops.

Anyway Lowaters have created a really interesting set up – 7000 cu meter reservoir (we would get through about 600 cu meter here in months like July and August) which is purified by oxyenation via a venturi pump and an iris bed. More about that in a minute.

As permaculture enthusiasts will know this is a key trick in the reservoir – but it’s amazing to see it installed in a mainstream nursery. What’s particularly surprising is how small it is relative to the amount of purification of pathogens like phytophora that it removes. But analysis of the water demonstrates that it does. It passes 4 cu metres per hour or around 100 cu metres per day – five times what we would use here at our irrigation peak. Here’s a couple of pictures.

Lowaters Iris Bed

Lowater Iris Bed

Iris bed detail

Under the bonnet

As you can see, the roots of the Irises which sit in a floating polystyrene island are able to clean the water that passes through them.

If you would like a copy of Charles’ report you can download it free from this page which also has a slideshow of the whole project

Water Harvesting Report

One of my fellow champions, Charles Carr of Lowater’s nursery has recently completed a report on water harvesting in the horticultural sector and it reviews among other things the use of reed and iris beds in cleaning run off water.

It has a number of case studies and documents their own experiences in putting in a harvesting system. You can download the report here free.

The launch event of this is tomorrow so I’ll report back on anything interesting that’s said.


btw – this is of slightly more than academic interest to me – we’re progressing a rainwater harvesting scheme here at Fletching Glasshouses. Will keep you updated on developments.

Growing Jobs – How to get a top notch workforce

Is the title of the next presentation I’m making.

It’s at the National Fruit Show, Kent County Showground on Wednesday 20th October. Time is 4.15 – 4.45.

Entrance to the show is free. More details here.

Speaking engagements about workforce development.

As part of the dissemination activities for the project, I’m happy to present the key findings of the project to groups active within the horticultural industry or to the local authority, business support and educational and research establishments that support the industry.

There is no fee required for talks in the SEEDA or London regions and I can present the slideset shown below. Total time allowing for questions would be about 45 minutes or so. For educational audiences I can also present materials relating to the more detailed evidence base paper that has been put together more recently.

Please contact me on 0845 094 0407

Alan Rae

High performance work practices - a practical review

In the original growing jobs workbook I promised to write a longer paper with the evidence base for some of the things we recommended – particularly the HR practices.

When I was finishing the case studies I was struck by how some of the larger companies were taking on lean methods. I  started thinking about how we might apply that in our own business. So I took the opportunity to think through how managment methods have changed and what it might mean for us.

One  principle  was  about  promoting the industry as a good place to work. We’re a highly technical industry and should be seen as part of the knowledge economy. So the evidence base tries to put the high performance working practices we mentioned into the context of lean and smart working. It also tries to spell out where to start and identify what’s likely to make the most difference – and what might get in the way.

It’s now available as a companion to the original report and you can download it here.

Interesting survey on Agricultural Training and working conditions

There’s an interesting report on the Farmers Weekly site about conditions, hours and training provision in the Agricultural industry.

As you would expect there’s lots of issues about training and long hours.

Full report is here

Project Reviewed in Horticultural Week

The project has been reviewed in Horticultural Week two weeks running, once as a review of the launch and the second as an adjunct to an article on the prospects for Eastern European Labour after 2011. You can read more via the press coverage links on the right side-bar.

We are in the process of organising the promotion of the report and would welcome any opportunities to present the findings at conferences or meetings of local groups. More details from 0845 094 0407

Horticultural workforce best practice slides

Today we presented the findings of the project to an open meeting of NFU members at East Malling, Kent.

As promised please find the slide presentation here.

If you are belong to an organisation that you think would benefit from this presentation please let me know. You can contact me on 0845 094 0407


What is Growing Jobs about

SEEDA, the Regional Development Agency for the South East, funded Dr Alan Rae of Fletching Glasshouses to look for examples of good practice in workforce management and to develop case studies useful to different types of production horticulture.

This site makes the findings available to growers and policy makers. It contains case studies, guidelines and other outputs of the project. We identified 6 principles of good practice which you can see on the left hand side bar, and we’ve written a 24 page good practice guide which you can download via the form on the right sidebar. The full report plus cases studies and HR background is now available as a paperback.

You can find the case studies from the individual companies on their own pages, together with some video clips which allow the companies to tell their own stories for you. Finally, we’ve put together a page of useful resources and contacts.

We would still welcome additional case studies – if you think you’ve got a story that would be useful to other people, give me a ring on 0845 094 0407

Alan Rae Signature