It’s June! And the time is “ripe” for soft fruits. In our latest supplier spotlight, we spoke to East Boldre’s New Forest Fruit about sustainability pledges, technology-firsts to introduce new ways of farming using traditional methods, and even robot pickers.
Nestled in the heart of the beautiful New Forest National Park, there is a special kind of fruit farm, aptly called New Forest Fruit. The farm is situated over three sites which span eighty hectares.
New Forest Fruit is now in its thirteenth year of trading
The main crop is strawberries, which are sold to leading supermarkets, local farm shops, restaurants and greengrocers. A small amount of raspberries and blueberries are also grown, but these are only sold locally. The company is led by owner Sandy Booth who has been involved with NFF since 2008, fully taking over as CEO in 2018. Sandy’s team consists of several close-knit departments that cover every aspect of the business and give the company the feel of being family-run.
Like many businesses, the New Forest Fruit farm is embracing technology
It became the first company in the UK to be involved in trials of traceability technology – a process that allows businesses to track food at every single stage of the production process. They also use robots used to apply a UV treatment for mildew at night. Not only is technology being used to improve and enhance the soft fruit but it’s also helped address other areas of the business too.
New Forest Fruit is trialling robot pickers!
It means the fruit can be picked at the perfect time, and the business isn’t hindered by labour shortages – something else that affects so many fruit farms like theirs. Being a home-grown British fruit farm, the team at New Forest Fruit takes its eco-friendly pledge very seriously. The company recently produced a sustainability report to highlight all the measures implemented to support this.
The environment is at the heart of all the decisions made
Some of these measures include a management system for all the hedgerows on the farm so that wildlife corridors are maintained and can provide shelter. This includes laying 240m of hedgerow this year. There are also bat and bird boxes around the farm. This season there have been 3000 apple trees planted to promote the biosphere in and around the farm. Three on-site reservoirs to ensure it uses its water supply, which limits the amount that’s taken from the rivers. Plus, rain gutters on the strawberry tunnels feed directly back to the reservoir. The farm uses Integrated Farm Management, which is marrying traditional techniques of farming with the latest innovations and enabling a whole farm approach.
Plus a brand new product has been launched this month that uses any second-class fruit which is turned into a delicious ‘pulsed’ dried strawberry snack! Pulsed dried is special as these berries will rehydrate when added to a glass of champagne, sparkling wine or gin & tonic. They also come in compostable packaging.
Photo credit: Monika Grabkowska
These are available to buy in Welcome Brockenhurst and more information is available at newforestfruitsnacks.com
If that wasn’t enough, the farm has also invested in three electric vehicles and two electric forklifts. Some on-site solar panels provide electricity to the Packshed and they recycle and reuse everything they can – all the coir from the strawberry crops is reused for the early-season asparagus.
What is the best thing about working with Welcome Stores?
“Welcome genuinely champions other local businesses and has created little hubs across the forest for people to access local produce. Also, their business values regarding sustainability and the environment align with the values held at NFF. Both businesses want to protect the environment.”
You can find New Forest Fruit’s juicy, perfectly ripe sweet-scented strawberries & also the brand new Pulsed Strawberry snacks on sale at your local Welcome store. You can also learn more about New Forest Fruit on newforestfruit.com or newforestfruitsnacks.com.