UK’s first SmartHort Centres to address labour challenges

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

To help growers address the challenges around labour and its rising cost, we are excited to announce that two businesses will become the UK’s first Strategic SmartHort Centres.

Lincolnshire based propagators, Volmary Ltd, and Herefordshire fruit growers, Haygrove Ltd, have now been confirmed as hosts for the new strategic centres for the next 12 months. Growers who engage with the programme could expect to see labour and productivity improvements between 25-40 per cent.

Consultancy, Fedden USP will lead training to drive business improvement, while sharing insight on practical management and methods of implementing LEAN.

Grace Emeny, Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager at AHDB said: “We’re really excited to see how the first of our Strategic SmartHort Centres develop – both Haygrove and Volmary are going to be brilliant ambassadors for the programme of work.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the impact of their projects on production efficiency and labour management, and sharing that insight with the rest of industry.”

A practical based approach will be taken by Fedden USP to introduce and apply various elements of LEAN. Growers will have the opportunity to apply these methods in their business and help them to drive industry benefit.

The hosts will help demonstrate how labour efficiency tools and techniques can be used on a daily basis. A number of events will be held throughout the period to focus on key areas of the business. These workshops 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

Neil Fedden, Fedden USP explains: “This is a unique opportunity to take part in a ‘live’ case study for the application of LEAN tools and techniques within the successful businesses. The aim of the programme is a practical demonstration of how LEAN can be applied to improve productivity and sustain the improvements.”

Part of the AHDB Farm Excellence network, each host site will have workshops where they will be encouraged to have an open and honest discussion around business change. The workshops are designed for all horticultural sectors and will not focus on specific crop issues.

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.”

This approach aims to provide numerous benefits and opportunities for horticultural growers. Businesses who attend the Strategic SmartHort Centre events will be given the opportunity to attend additional Apprenticeship Levy funded training on LEAN/Business Improvement and gain a level two national recognised qualification (non-levy companies will need to pay £350/attendee). This consists of six days of training and twelve-days of on-site support.

A third Strategic Smarthort Centre is yet to be announced so keep an eye out for further information and for any related events by visiting,