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Agrovista and partners – technically connected for a decade


Over the past 10 years Agrovista has been working closely with three key partners to develop a comprehensive offering to soft fruit growers across the UK.

To celebrate this, Agrovista, Botanicoir, Bato and Koppert will join forces at Fruit Focus 2019 to highlight the benefits this arrangement has brought, and continues to bring, to producers.

A decade ago Agrovista head of fruit Mark Davies met Kalum and Samantha Balasuriya who own Sri Lankan-based Botanicoir.
The move coincided with the introduction of coir substrate as a peat replacement for commercial strawberry production. 

Botanicoir was working with a 100% coir mix, which was consistent, easy to handle, encouraged healthy rooting and was
environmentally friendly and reusable.

“We worked closely with growers to understand their needs and fine-tuned our mix to develop the Precision Plus grade,” says Mr Davies.
“That put Botanicoir on the global map. More recently we developed Precision Plus Ultra, now the product of choice for many large growers in the UK.

“I like to think that Agrovista and Botanicoir have done our bit to help move the industry from soil to substrate, which in addition
to all its other benefits maximises the potential output for our grower clients.”

Mr Balasuriya says: “We have been on an exciting journey together, from the first year when we supplied around 50,000 strawberry
growbags to the UK, through to Precision Plus Ultra.

“None of this would have been possible for Botanicoir without the support of Agrovista, and in particular Mark Davies,
both in terms of expert technical advice in the field and a grower-centric approach.

“The synergy between the two companies was immediately obvious 10 years ago and the special relationship has grown
from strength to strength ever since.” 

Agrovista started look at the options for improving the systems within which some of this substrate was used. In 2009,
the company struck up a trading relationship with Bato Plastics, a Dutch specialist in substrate troughs and pot systems to maximise crop output.

Bato pioneered square pots on legs for the cane fruit market, and trough systems to optimise substrate volume per plant,
whilst still providing ideal drainage and growing conditions. “New technology is being used to further improve the offer to growers,
using experience gained from all over the globe,” says Mr Davies.

Bato sales manager Hans Luijkx says the market has changed considerably over the past decade, driven by the switch to
substrates in pots and troughs to improve fruit quality, water management, labour and production planning.

“Bato has responded by developing many different products such as a complete range of square pots (from 1.8 litres to 35 litres)
and substrate troughs (50 cm and 1m troughs),” says Mr Luijkx. “Good collaboration with Agrovista UK and knowledge of the
soft fruit market ensures Bato can supply on time.” 

The move to substrate in a protected environment paved the way for biological control techniques. Koppert UK has worked
closely with Agrovista’s agronomy team to help growers control pests, whilst keeping residues to the absolute minimum.

“Volumes of insects now used to help our grower clients have increased dramatically,” says Mr Davies. “Managing a spray programme
around the biological programme is crucial for its success, which is where our agronomy team adds real value to our farms.”

Koppert UK general manager David Foster says the partnership with Agrovista has helped Koppert’s reach in the market,
helping more growers to reap the benefits of biological control.

Koppert and Agrovista consultants will be at hand at Fruit Focus to answers grower’s questions about better pollination results,
the effective biological control of pests and the ever-present threats of soil-borne diseases. 

“There will be a special focus on Koppert’s Excel hives, Mr Foster adds. “These high-tech hives contain extra sugar water,
improved ventilation, mesh to keep out wasps and markers to aid bumblebees to find the hive with greater ease.”

No-one know what changes the next 10 years will bring, but Mr Davies is in no doubt the partnerships will continue
to complement Agrovista’s team of soft fruit specialists, whose aim is to maximise customers’ yields of top quality fruit
whilst satisfying increasingly more complex demands of inputs legislation, protocols and consumer expectation.

“We will see changes in crop production methods, along with further developments in variety choice, growing systems,
automation and crop monitoring,” says Mr Davies. 

“I believe demand for our soft fruit product is here to stay, and will continue to grow at a rate that must be the
envy of many other industries.

“So watch this space – Agrovista and our partners intend to play our part over the next 10 years as much as we have in the last.”

* Agrovista is exhibiting on stand 300 at Fruit Focus. Koppert, Bato and Botanicoir are on adjacent stands (302, 304 and 306 respectively).


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