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The English Apple Man


16th Jun 2023 - Latest technology for Strawberry Growing

EKFS Soft Fruit Walk 2023 - Tuesday 13th June


On a glorious summer evening The English Apple Man joined circa 70 visitors to the annual soft fruit visit, held this year at WB Chambers




Welcomed to Goose Farm by Salih Hodzof - WB Chambers - Chief Operating Officer


Salih also works closely with Chambers' partner growers in Spain, Morocco and Mexico enabling the business to achieve its impressive scale of commercial fruit production.


Below: Multy-Cosy Greenhouse from PROTECH (3.2)


WB Chambers purchased Goose Farm in 2020 as a commercial strawberry unit with conventional Spanish tunnel production. They have subsequently added an impressive 3.2 ha multi-span poly-house, heated by bio-mass boilers to extend the season. The total production area is 31 hectares.


The walk took in some of older and newer tunnels as well as the new system, showing the progression of growing techniques.


Tim Chambers, Salih Hodzhov and their team have achieved consistent and continued growth in their UK production over many years.

Visitors to this walk were able see and hear from a leading UK soft fruit business.


Becoming a traditional part of EKFS visits, NIAB presentations from Mat Papp-Rupar presenting research into coir re-use and recycling and Feli Fernandez presenting research into strawberry and raspberry resistance to pests.









WB Chambers



Agricultural divisions across UK, Spain, Poland, Egypt, Portugal, Peru, Morocco with focus on fruit production. Horticultural propagation division sending plants around the world to connect with the growers we work with. Extending production outside of the domestic growing season.



Tour of strawberry production area


Salih Hodzof led us on a tour of the strawberry production units, our first stop was the Multy-Cosy Greenhouse from Protech( 3.2) and nearby new reservoir project.


Having bought the farm in 2020 Chambers have added this stunning 3.5 hectare multi-span greenhouse at a cost of £280,000 per hectare.


Production area is increased per Hectare with 8200 linear meters x 8 plants per meter. Standard tunnels have 6250 linear meters per Ha.


The physical attributes - Apex height-5.7 m - Bay width- 8.5 m - Rain gutter height 3 m - Oval tube 80 x 40 mm, 2mm thickness.


Polythene thickness 220 mu.


Salih said: With the new boiler house facility, we can do 7.5-9.0-degree uplift with the heating and when hot the ventilation will be better.


Strawberry support is the usual tabletop system with 7 dripper per metre irrigation.


In the multi bay greenhouses, there is 8200 metre x 8 plants as opposed to 6250 meter x 8 plants per production hectare in standard tunnels.


Circa 25% increase in productive plants area.













Below: Multy-Cosy Greenhouse from Protech( 3.2)



Click on link to Multy-Cosy Greenhouse from Protech




Salih told the EKFS group, the Reservoir built with 12-15 000 cubic metre capacity.


"We should be able to fill it with the rain water collection from the tunnels making them self-sufficient with a bit spare for the other fields".


The new Multi span greenhouse has integrated gutters capturing the rainfall and directing it into the new reservoir.


The reservoir is clay based so will not need a liner!


During our tour of Goose Farm, Salih related the change in WC Chambers growing systems from nil Bio to full bio standards


Previously they were chemical reliant on pest & disease control, but now with in house expertise, Bio Control is rapidly becoming our mode of control.


Bio Control


Biological control is a method of pest control that manages the population of pests without chemical pesticides. This method can be used to control insects, small animals, and parasitic plants. This method typically involves introducing natural predators into the ecosystem.


Biological control has the advantage of being effective, environmentally friendly, and self-sustaining. The plants, predators, and natural deterrents used in biological control are called biological control agents.


When gardeners introduce lady bugs into their gardens to control aphid colonies, they're practicing biological control - in this instance, the lady bugs are the biological control agents. Likewise, planting mint to keep spiders away from entrances, uses mint as the biological control agent and is actually a form of conservation biocontrol, or habitat manipulation.



In the standard tunnels, the table top structures are having heating pipes added in readiness for when added Multy-Cosy Greenhouse from Protech(3.2) structures are built.


Below: left. Standard tunnel format and right. Multi Span tunnels




Below: left. standard table tops with no heating pipes and right. heating pipes clearly visible on current table top format



Below: left. One of the nine boilers and right. I 'nabbed' these two young NIAB scientists in the Boiler Room



Below: Mat Papp-Rupar NIAB


With the desire to move commercial and gardening operations away from the use of peat to more sustainable products, Coir is the replacement.


Coir, also known as coconut peat, is a sustainable growing medium made from the husks of coconuts. As coconuts are harvested for their milky, nutty flesh, these husks are a natural by-product put to good use through a process that's much more sustainable than excavating peat.


NIAB Scientist Mat Papp-Rupar has been studying the re-use of COIR in strawberry production. Clearly as with so many products availability is paramount and Mat reminded us that if China suddenly changes from peat based production and seeks COIR from current global sources, COIR will be in huge demand.


In 2018 with Berry Gardens trial and EU money we cropped the same bags over 4 years.


Initially we tried re-using Coir, not recycling it but just planted in the same bags and with June Bearers it was not much of an issue, however with Everbearers it saw a year on year drop in productivity. 40% over 4 years.


"We trialled using various coir products, recycled and new.


We identified Overland at Ash near Canterbury who remove spent bags and recycle coir as a replacement growing medium.


They have a conveyor system for removing the plastic, plants and pathogens.


Plan to use certified recycled bags. trialled new v recycled bags


Once problems with pathogens and consistency are overcome, it should be possible to manage plant production with entirely recycled coir.



Finally, a statement from WB Chambers website.


"The current business was set up by WB Chambers in 1952. Third generation owner and present managing director Tim Chambers took over the reins of running the family's farms in 1990, focusing on berry, currant and stone fruit production.


Chambers enjoys mutually beneficial working relationships with specialist growers worldwide, who all share the business' commitment to excellence.


In 2016 we incorporated WBC Imports (WBCI) to meet the demands of UK customers wanting to buy fruit 52 weeks directly from ourselves and our associated growers and started to export into Europe with a full product range. All supply is fully Globalgap, Eurepgap or Assured Produce accredited and we manage all logistics, air freight, sea freight & road freight.


We now supply over 85% of our own fruit production and 100% of our imported fruit directly to our customers.


We collaborate directly with growers across the world, including berry farms from Mexico, Guatemala, South America, Egypt, Morocco, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Italy".



That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man