The New Forest Fruit Company
The New Forest Fruit Company, owned by Sandy Booth is a soft fruit growing business specialising in strawberries, asparagus and other small soft fruit. Because of their privileged growing location situated between the Solent and the New Forest National Park, New Forest fruits has the ideal microclimate for growing the best strawberries in the UK. With the use of modern growing systems including a range of varieties, New Forest have a very long picking season from March until the end of November.
View video here about strawberry picking at the New Forest Fruit Company
Images courtesy of The New Forest Company
Reliable and Consistent
All the crops are grown under protection; glasshouses for the first and last months of the season and polytunnels for the main season. Crop protection provides much better continuity of supply and better working conditions for our staff during inclement weather. 100% of their strawberries are also grown on a ‘table top’ system so that they are picked without the backbreaking bending often traditionally associated with picking. They are never happy to rest on our laurels and took the step of further embracing table top systems by introducing 1 hectare of the NGS system in early 2021, this system increases the number of plants per hectare without the need for increasing the size of the polytunnels. This is achieved through a rotational crop support system whereby the rows of plants are shifted from side by side to be above/below one another while a task is carried out and then returned to the original position.
Use of new technology is incredibly important in everything the New Forest do, first exemplified by moving away from soil grown strawberries to substrate grown in the very early stages of this evolution. Use of wet probe technology to monitor the substrate moisture and EC levels, to the use of temperature, humidity sensors in the field to open and close doors automatically. The list goes on, but we are continually looking to technology to improve quality going forward.
From the automatic blast/rapid chillers designed to remove field heat quickly, to the twin lane, high throughput packing lines with traffic light systems for punnet weight and, finally, modern, efficient coldstores, our packhouse ensures quality is maintained and the supermarket customer is delighted with their purchase.
The New Forest Company are understandably proud of their place within the New Forest National Park and do their best to complement the diverse range of flora and fauna around them. Around the sites they have installed bee hotels, bat boxes and bird boxes, as well as creating wildlife corridors and beetle banks and undertaking an annual baseline biodiversity study to ensure the trend for wildlife flourishing continues.
Within the production areas, they minimise the use of synthetic plant protection products, in favour of natural alternatives; including biological control (releasing beneficial insects to predate pests which are harmful to our crops) and good husbandry as part of an integrated approach. New Forest Fruits are particularly pleased with the results of growing garlic within the cropping structures as a deterrent for pests.
In addition to their recycling efforts, consideration for the environment and moves to minimise their carbon footprint, they see empowerment of staff (and promoting from within, where appropriate) as another of their strengths.
New Forest Fruits are very proud to have put rainwater harvesting at the heart of the design of their most recently completed production facility which, in conjunction with 2 new reservoirs, means they will be able to rely less on abstraction during drier months of the year as they will have already captured and stored more of the irrigation water during times of abundance. During this process, they have identified opportunities to improve water quality, too, with simple but effective physical filtration. A large proportion of the pumping equipment now has variable speed drive technology to improve efficiency, and the solar panels installed in 2013 annually provide an average 350,000kWh of electricity.
The first electric vehicles are due to join the company vehicle fleet early in 2022.