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Can agri-tech improve the resilience of strawberry production?

By bringing together the latest in plant breeding with an innovative growing environment, could UK horticulture overcome supply chain challenges and reduce food miles? That is the question being asked by independent seed specialist Elsoms as part of their work to improve the resilience of strawberry production.

Recognizing the need to re-assess current production systems for soft fruit, Elsoms is working with the Natural Light Growing Centre (NLG), a facility run by partners CHAP (Crop Health & Protection), and RIPE, at the University of Warwick Life Sciences.

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This commercial-scale greenhouse is clad in ETFE (ethylene tetrafluoroethylene), which, unlike glass, transmits full-spectrum sunlight, including UVA and UVB, into the growing area. To test the potential benefits for strawberry production, Elsoms has been trialing one of its new hybrid everbearing varieties, Estavana.

Three strawberry varieties
Elsoms Technical Coordinator, Claire Taylor, said: “We launched three strawberry varieties earlier this year, one of which was Estavana. These are bred by Dutch F1-hybrid strawberry specialists ABZ Seeds, and are then propagated in the UK for the commercial market by Ball Colegrave.

“As plants are supplied disease-free, this offers strong commercial benefits for growers, and with this in mind, we wanted to look at how else we could build on that, to help to improve the resilience of the UK supply chain.

“After being introduced to the NLG through our relationship with the University of Warwick, we thought it would be a great place to start in assessing current growing practices, and how agri-tech might make a difference.”

Due to its ability to transmit full-spectrum sunlight, the ETFE greenhouse can potentially help to understand how factors such as crop health resilience and overall yield, as well as marketable qualities such as taste and color, could be enhanced. As a strong disease-free variety, Elsoms has found Estavana grows well in this environment, continuing to bear fruit well into October.

Extending the season
This is something Claire and the team are keen to investigate further. “We have a limited strawberry season in the UK, so the concept of extending this by combining strong plant breeding with an innovative growing environment is really quite exciting.

“To explore this further, we’d like to look at one of our other varieties, Soraya, as this can offer a winter harvest given the correct conditions. Of course, we’d also need to consider the role of additional energy-efficient LED lighting to make this possible, but ETFE provides an excellent start.”

With an extended season for UK-grown strawberries, this could reduce the reliance on imports, future-proof the country’s supply chain, and address wider food chain issues such as reducing its carbon footprint and associated emissions.

CHAP Innovation Sector Lead, Martin Squire, said: “The work Elsoms is doing at the NLG is a great example of what CHAP is all about – collaborating with industry to address sector-wide challenges and using agri-tech innovation to find viable solutions.

“The potential to extend the home-grown strawberry season is of real value to growers and consumers.”

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Israel announces creation of global seed company

Two Israeli seed producers, Nirit Seeds and TomaTech, have joined forces to create Israel’s largest vegetable seed company. This synergy will enable unique seed breeding research and development that will accelerate the company’s growth in the international seed markets.

Upon completion of the merger, the company will have more than 80 employees worldwide, including molecular biologists, breeders, agronomists, and others.
The company will improve its breeding activities in Israel, Spain, Mexico and Italy, as well as significantly expand its representation in the Netherlands and North America, with a particular focus on growing vegetables in high-tech greenhouses.

Nirit Seeds is one of the most successful internationally traded tomato and pepper seed producers, investing in the development of revolutionary genetic technologies. TomaTech is one of the leading tomato seed companies in Israel, developing premium varieties, including those resistant to the dangerous Tomato Brown Ruffle Virus (ToBRFV).

The production of crop seeds is one of the most advanced and high-tech sectors in Israel. According to the Seed Department of the Federation of Israel Chambers of Commerce, seed exports currently generate $200 million in annual revenue. There are about 25 large and medium-sized companies in the local industry.

For reference. According to market research, the global vegetable seed industry is valued at $8 billion a year and is growing at a CAGR of 8%.

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Karachay-Cherkessia became one of the leaders in the production of greenhouse vegetables at the end of 2021


Greenhouse vegetable production in 2021 reached a record 1.4 million tonnes. According to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, the leaders among the regions in this segment are the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Lipetsk, Moscow, Kaluga, Volgograd, Novosibirsk, Saratov, Chelyabinsk regions, Krasnodar and Stavropol Territories, the Republics of Bashkortostan and Tatarstan. These regions account for more than 60% of the total production in the country. The intensive development of greenhouse projects in our country helps to provide Russians with fresh vegetables all year round. Last year, the harvest in winter greenhouses updated the 2020 record – more than 1.4 million tons of products were received. Including the production of cucumbers amounted to at least 830 thousand tons, and tomatoes – 590 thousand tons. It is expected that by 2025 the volume of vegetable production in year-round greenhouses will be at least 1.6 million tons of vegetables.


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December: Special Year Overview

In 2022, it will be 22 year since the new millennium started. Can’t believe it? Neither can we, but it is true. Before we go there, it is time to reflect on what has happened this year. Over the next couple of weeks, we will look back at 2021 and we will highlight the most important events that impacted the industry.

New greenhouses, events, even a few shows, technical novelties, and all other relevant news will pass by, offering you something other than Covid to talk about during Christmas and New Years’.


Wish your customers Happy Holidays
This special also offers an opportunity to put your company in the spotlight with a banner in this special box. This banner can be booked until December 24 on our newsletters. For more information, feel free to send an email to: 

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