Cambridgeshire firm seeks answers to labour shortage

Thursday, 20 June 2019

A Cambridgeshire based business is to lead the way in demonstrating labour saving techniques to help the horticulture industry offset the shortage of seasonal workers.

Plant propagator, Volmary Ltd of Wisbech, has been announced as an AHDB ‘Strategic SmartHort Centre’ and will host a series of workshops this year for other local Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk based horticultural businesses.

Consultancy, Fedden USP, will lead training to drive business improvement, while sharing insight on practical management and methods of implementing Lean practices in horticulture. Businesses attending the events should expect to see labour and productivity improvements of between 25-40%.

Francis Mizuro, Operations Manager of Volmary Ltd said: “We’re delighted to have been chosen as one of the first Smarthort Centres. We’re very excited to bring the investigative-trial work to our site and to be a key part of the development of systems and technologies that will help both the industry as a whole and our own business.

“We feel by investing some of our time and resources to this programme, we will help progress an industry that has lacked investment, focus and people.”

Volmary will help demonstrate how labour efficiency tools and techniques can be used on a daily basis in any horticultural business, regardless of the crops they grow or whether they have two or 200 employees.

Grace Emeny, Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB said: “Volmary will be a brilliant ambassador for our SmartHort programme. We’re looking forward to seeing the impact of their projects that develop throughout their year as a Strategic SmartHort Centre on production efficiency and labour management. Crucially they will be sharing that insight with other local growers and we’re grateful for the honesty and openness they will be bringing to these events.”

Hayley Campbell-Gibbons, Chair of AHDB Horticulture, said: “Labour can account for up to 70% of production costs for some horticulture businesses. In recent years, some areas have seen a 30% shortfall in seasonal workers, putting huge strains on businesses and leading to increased wage costs to attract and retain the best workers.

“The Strategic SmartHort Centres are one of the ways we’re putting practical advice and information out to growers to help them deal with this significant challenge and we hope many businesses in the area make the most of this opportunity.”

Local businesses attending the workshops can expect a hands-on, practical learning experience and will cover:

  • Process mapping and waste identification
  • Practical problem solving using a technique called Plan, Do, Check, Act
  • How to encourage continuous improvement across the whole organisation
  • Visual management boards and metrics to check improvements have worked

The first workshop will take place on 23 and 24 July at Volmary Ltd, Wisbech. To find out more and to book your place,

You can hear Francis talk about why he became a Strategic SmartHort Centre host on AHDB’s latest podcast, listen here:

To find out more about the AHDB’s SmartHort campaign, visit