Working with industry to grow the future

We recognise that production in the horticulture sector is becoming more intensive and technology is developing to respond to the need for longer growing seasons and more efficient use of resources.

Organisations need to invest to stay competitive in the world market and access to high quality technological facilities is critical.

Designed and developed in conjunction with UK grower groups the centre offers your business:

Skills

  • Apprenticeship programmes to level 4
  • Bachelor degree in commercial production horticulture
  • Employer led CPD
  • Legislative training through our NPTC centre
  • Graduate dissertation projects
  • Work placements for our students
  • Employer-led skills training – you decide and shape to ensure future-proofed delivery
  • Digital design skills

Trials research

  • A flexible facility to demonstrate intensive production of protected crops such as soft fruits, salad crops including long season edibles and cut flowers
  • State-of-the-art glasshouse units with 6m post, diffuse glass, thermal screens, growing gutters, hydroponics with drainwater nutrient recirculation capability
  • Full PRIVA computerised environmental controls
  • 3 fully equipped units that can operate independently to allow simultaneous growing of a range of crop types
  • PHILIPS LED top lighting and inter lighting in all compartments
  • Micro propagation unit in fully equipped laboratory facilities and adjoining propagation trials unit with under bench heating and fogging system
  • Project based consortia and bid writing team to support growers access new funding streams and innovation initiatives
  • Outdoor cropping trial facilities and demonstration plots available on commercial farm and through agri-tech centre

Crop Trials

The Horticulture Department, in conjunction with the Tomato Working Party, are currently running a commercial crop trial which aims to monitor the performance of two commercial tomato varieties over the UK winter period using LED toplighting and interlighting techniques.

The objectives of the trial are:

  • To monitor the growth of tomato plants under UK winter conditions, using supplementary LED lighting suspended over the crop (toplighting) and between the  plants in the lower  canopy (interlighting)
  • To measure the production of marketable tomato fruit from the combined LED lighting
    regime and compare the data with existing commercial tomato crops
  • To refine production techniques and produce a UK LED light protocol for
    production of marketable tomato crops over the winter period

The tomato varieties are ‘Piccolo’, a cherry on-the-vine variety and ‘Brioso’, a cocktail variety. These were planted in Grodan ‘Grotop Expert’ slabs at the beginning of December as 60-day plants at a planting density of two plants per square metre, rising to four plant heads per square metre.

Supplementary lighting to the crop has been provided through the LED lighting system is in the form of Phillips LED GreenPower Toplight and Philips LED GreenPower Interlighting to achieve an overall optimum lighting level for tomato crop growth. In addition the LED lighting system has been programmed to turn on 1 hour prior to sunrise and one hour post sunset during the over-winter period.

Nutrient feed is in the form of drip irrigation from the Priva Nutrijet feed rig providing an individual feed recipe which has been adapted to suit the stage of development of the crop.

Environmental data, plant growth data and general observations are being recorded weekly by our BSc (Hons) Applied Plant Science and Production Technology students and the data will be analysed by the students and compared to data from other similar commercial trials. The trial will continue for a further 7 months and the crop will be monitored and managed throughout this time using the PRIVA computer control system.

We have harvested two weekly yields to date – a total of 13kg of ‘Piccolo’ variety and 7kg of ‘Brioso’ variety and they taste delicious!

Conference facilities

  • Full conference and seminar facilities for knowledge transfer events with interactive links to the high tech glasshouse production units
  • Interpretation zone with exhibition space to demonstrate new products and developments
  • Catering facilities and events management support
  • Fully staffed reception with car parking
  • A cafe and retail outlet incorporated within the 3000sq metre centre
  • Fully equipped design studio including the latest Apple Mac design and CAD systems
  • Show gardens for edible displays linked to RHS Tatton Flower Show