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26th Sep, 2021

Growing delight for students

Rob George 25th Jun, 2021

AGRI-tech students at Pershore College are tasting the sweet fruits of success after a new successful trial involving alpine strawberries which were planted last winter.

Nick Monkton and Tom Geniver planted the ‘Alexandria’ strawberry seeds last winter and the plants have now started to fruit in the polytunnel facility at the horticulture college.

Alpine strawberries are smaller in size and are able to grow in a cooler climate. Planting in the autumn using this method means these Alpine strawberries could be grown all-year round.

Since being sown in Nov 2020, the Alpine plants have been slowly growing over the winter months. The warm April weather boosted the flowering phase – now kilos of the fruit are being produced.

The FdSci Agri-Tech degree at Pershore includes an industry placement. The two placement students have been working in the college’s state-of-the-art Agri-tech Research Centre which includes a hydroponic chamber and an outdoor polytunnel.

The polytunnel houses an automated vertical farming system, where the trial took place.

Vertical farming systems comprise several stacked towers arranged in rows with each layer being able to house six plants allowing more food to be grown in a given area.

Students on the degree course are given in-depth training on setting up and maintaining crops grown in hydroponic systems such as this.

Different herbs, salad leaves and other plants can be grown under different wavelengths of light and students get experience in understanding how different conditions affect salad growth and taste – allowing them to put the theory they have learned into practice.

During the degree they are also given opportunities to work with local businesses that are trialling new crops in the Pershore College hydroponic chamber.

Dr Anjana Patel, from Pershore College, said: “Trials like this help to find more strawberry varieties that have greater flavour and more alternatives to imported strawberries.

“This might then reduce our reliance on food flown in and also helps to build a bigger sustainable food production platform.

“Nick and Tom continue to work on the strawberries to measure the yield that they are getting and have now turned their attention to a more commercial variety which is beginning to ripen in polytunnel alongside the alpine variety.”

Pershore College is part of college group WCG. The college is hosting A Festival of Horticultural Technology on Tuesday (June 29) and Wednesday, July 21.

Visit https://wcg.ac.uk/page/1623/festival-of-horticultural-technology for more on the festival.

Pershore College’s Open Event will be held on Tuesday from 5.30pm-8pm. To book visit www.wcg.ac.uk/agritech

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