A programme of work to identify new product opportunities and resolve technical and cultural issues relevant to the bedding and pot plant sectors

A programme of work to identify new product opportunities and resolve technical and cultural issues relevant to the bedding and pot plant sectors


To deliver innovation to bedding and pot plant growers via a programme of work identifying a combination of new product opportunities and practical, adoptable, solutions to address a range of commercially prioritised technical and cultural issues encountered on nurseries.


The Bedding and Pot Plant Centre project (PO 019 and 019a) was originally instigated by AHDB, in consultation with the BPOA (British Protected Ornamental Association) and industry, to create a mechanism to identify new product opportunities and deliver technical innovation that growers can readily access and implement, without the need for significant investment.

The bedding and pot plant sectors are diverse; developing, growing and marketing thousands of different plant varieties in a range of formats. Innovation and product development are extremely important to both sectors to continually culture and develop customer interest and, along with a constant drive for efficiency, to maintain business profitability. Product development and small-scale problem solving are therefore key elements of the Centre’s remit, ideally combining a number of demonstration and investigative trials alongside other appropriate output, within a strategically focused work programme which has a clear goal of delivering impact for growers in these sectors.


All protected ornamental crops with potential for container production will be considered within the remit of the work programme; the work being designed to deliver practical solutions, particularly to growers of finished product, who rely more heavily on growing skills than advanced production systems. The proposed programme needs to deliver a series of trials, and supporting demonstrations, workshops, articles, videos, reviews and innovative knowledge exchange to provide robust guidance, and where possible recommendations, on product and production system innovation and ensure swift adoption of promising solutions by both sectors. Clear demonstration of the financial impact of the work for the UK bedding and pot plant sectors will be essential.

New product development should tie in with market specifications, including shelf life requirements. Interaction between the project team and retailers would be valuable in shaping this element of the work programme.

A good, clear working relationship between the project manager, project team and staff at the project location are fundamental to the success of this programme. The work programme must be led by a team capable of commanding the respect of industry, it can be a mix of established representatives, with strong science backgrounds and proven industry experience, and newer talent. The team must be of sufficient number and experience to deliver the stated milestones in a timely manner. The proposed programme will ideally be centrally located, on a commercial site already equipped with the facilities and growing skills to be able to produce finished product to a commercially credible standard. Applicants should ensure there is scope for allocation of some of the programme budget to cover the space, labour and other inputs from a commercial site as appropriate. Individual trials or demonstrations within the work programme can be located beyond the central location, making use of specialist facilities found on other sites. The project team will need to liaise closely with all the potential sites to plan, maintain and assess trials. Where applicable, the programme should also complement other relevant ongoing AHDB funded projects and related work programmes, such as ‘GrowSave’, via collaborative cross programme working, or complement or validate work undertaken by other funding organisations.

Applicants will need to demonstrate capacity to deliver a prioritised work programme that addresses technical and crop management issues relevant to both sectors and includes clear industry goals and benefits along with cost:benefit analysis work for new potential products or production methods. It should clearly indicate how the programme will ensure industry priorities are identified and how the work programme content will be developed to ensure it remains relevant to production trends within the sectors. The proposal should detail the resources and approaches that will be used to inform both the work programme and direction of the trials, such as reviewing relevant UK and European research, trends in sales, reports on trade shows and exhibitions etc. Detail about how the trials information generated will be developed to provide robust industry guidance should also be presented. Although both bedding and pot plant production is seasonal in nature, the work plan should ensure that the programme engages with growers throughout the year in a number of different ways.

In order to demonstrate competence to the evaluation group, the work programme should include a longer term strategy along with an indicative work plan for the first year developed in liaison with industry representatives. The expectation is to build on the foundations of the previous programmes undertaken, delivering around five individual trials per year and a range of other supporting output covering subject matter of benefit to both sectors. The project team should work closely with the elected Project Management Steering Group, who along with the BPOA Technical Committee, will be consulted over approval of work plans as they develop and provide recommendation to the Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers Panel on progression of the programme from year to year.

Relevant background AHDB funded research

The previous project PO 019 ‘The Bedding and Pot Plant Centre – new product opportunities for bedding and pot plant growers’ and its continuation project PO 019a, examined a range of topics including a comparison of seed- and cutting-raised varieties of begonia and calibrachoa, an assessment of FlowersonTime (scheduling software from the USA) under UK growing conditions, the impact of glass coatings on the growing environment, polythene spectral filters and their effect on plant growth, scheduling perennial plant production for early season sales, improving rooting in ‘stressed’ cutting material, identification of the causes of leaf chlorosis and necrosis in verbena, production of hellebores as pot plants for the Christmas period and evaluation of new plant growth regulator products for use on plugs, bedding plants and poinsettias.

Other relevant examples of new product development themed AHDB funded projects include:

PC 44              ‘Hydrangea: preliminary trial on the production of early quality plants’. Final report 1992

PC 44a            ‘Hydrangea: evaluation of new cultivars for growth, habit, marketability and shelf-life for marketing from the end of February to the end of March’. Final report 1996

PC 214            ‘Cyclamen: an assessment of cultivars during production in the glasshouse and under shelf-life conditions’. Final report 2006

PC 235            ‘Bedding plants: Assessment of the suitability of a range of miniature cyclamen varieties for use as late summer/autumn flowering bedding plants’.  Final report 2006

PO 006            ‘Hellebores for production under protection’. Final report 2013

PO 007            ‘New cultivars of poinsettias: evaluation at marketing and in shelf life’. Final report 2013

PO 021a          ‘New poinsettia genetics and controlled substrate moisture growing’. Final report 2018

 All the above reports can be obtained from the AHDB Horticulture website at https://horticulture.ahdb.org.uk

The proposed new programme of work is also expected to take reference from the programme undertaken by the National Cut Flower Centre, currently funded by AHDB as PO/BOF 002/002a/002b which is designed to deliver new product opportunities and other cultural solutions through a co-ordinated series of trials into the cut flower sector.

As appropriate, other relevant, non-AHDB funded, work programmes should also be sourced, evaluated and quoted as part of the proposal development.


 The expected output is summarised in the following bullet points. 

  1. A programme of investigative and demonstration trials (around five per year) designed in line with the detail provided in the scope section.
  2. Regular events to demonstrate work programme progress, with coverage of each trial, supporting information and grower guidance, delivered at appropriate and agreed times of the year.
  3. Delivery of text and supporting images for a technical briefing note for each trial, covering a short informal update of key agronomic inputs along with a summary of the outputs and recommendations for growers to adopt.
  4. Demonstrations, reviews, publications etc. to communicate both trials and non-trials based work.
  5. Dissemination of work programme progress via a range of communication channels, to interact and maintain contact with the sectors throughout the year, including for example the use of video and social media, in liaison with the AHDB.
  6. Comply with the standard annual project reporting requirements, as detailed on the AHDB website.
  7. Provide objective measures of the impact of each trial in terms of financial benefits, changes to nursery production techniques or UK product availability for sale.

Programme duration

It is envisaged that this will be a three year programme of work, commencing 1 April 2019, upon completion of the current project, PO 019a. Assuming successful delivery during the period of the contract, the AHDB Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers Panel may consider extending the programme a further two years. However, delivery of real impact for growers and the wider industry will be a fundamental criterion for evaluating successful delivery in the first instance.

Completion and submission of the application form

Please refer to the guidance notes for completion of application forms. Applicants should complete the AHDB Research and KE Application Form - Full Proposal Large, completed forms must be emailed to research@ahdb.org.uk no later than close of business on 7 September 2018.

Proposals will be assessed and scored internally and in liaison with the BPOA Technical Committee. Applicants may be invited to present their proposals at the BPOA Technical Committee autumn meeting scheduled for 16 October 2018. Recommendations for funding will be passed to the Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers Panel prior to the Panel meeting on 30 October 2018. Outcomes of the assessment process should be expected to be communicated during week commencing 12 November 2018. Further AHDB procurement information can be found at https://ahdb.org.uk/about/Procurement.aspx

Applicants are actively encouraged to liaise with relevant grower and industry representatives when building proposals, and to do this well ahead of the deadlines. Wayne Brough, Knowledge Exchange Manager and Dr Georgina Key, Resource Management Scientist are the lead AHDB representatives for this call and should also be kept updated of progress with tender development to help co-ordinate efforts.


The maximum budget available from the AHDB Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers Panel is £75,000 per annum, for a three year programme of work.


If you have a specific question related to this call, please email research@ahdb.org.uk. As part of the open tender process, AHDB cannot discuss specific project details with you before submitting your proposal.

Assessment criteria

Please note that the assessment criteria have been slightly altered for this tender. To access the relevant assessment criteria, please click here.