Vitacress is excited to announce the introduction of a new training scheme offering an accountancy tuition programme at the highest level, similar to those usually offered by the professional services and accounting firms.

Partnering with Babington and Grant Thornton, this scheme will go above and beyond the traditional accountancy training as it aims to combine leadership, problem solving and critical thinking with technical skills. It will make use of the Government’s apprenticeship levy fund and offer each apprentice a buddying system with a tailored plan for personal growth as well as professional development.

“At Vitacress we want to offer an apprenticeship that will benefit students by providing a well-rounded programme that prepares them for an exciting future in finance at Vitacress. This is a great example of our values in action and reflects how important it is to invest in our people.”

Ashley Cooper, Vitacress’ Group Finance Director

Both experts in their field, Babington is one of the UK’s leading learning & development organisations supporting over 7,000 learners, whilst Grant Thornton is one of the world’s largest organisations in Tax, Audit and Advisory.

Tim Sutcliffe, Head of New Client Relationships at Babington, comments: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Vitacress as they invest in the development and upskill of their finance team, through the launch of an accountancy apprenticeship programme. We look forward to working closely with Vitacress and our partners Grant Thornton to develop future finance leaders together.”

Jim Rodgers, Partner at Grant Thornton, says: “Attracting and retaining talent is key to building a world class finance team. Grant Thornton is delighted to be supporting Vitacress leverage the Apprenticeship Levy to invest in its development of a pipeline of finance leaders.”

The scheme offers support from practitioners, along with access to online resources such as webinars and seminars, and supports on-the-job training that will help accelerate the completion of training. The scheme will offer improved career development and a choice of qualification pathways – ACCA, ATT or CIMA.

Congratulations to Ellie Errett, Agronomist at Vitacress Herbs, for achieving her BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection. Ellie was awarded her certificate following months of hard work. Below she talks about what it means to her in a professional and personal context.

So, tell us a bit about your qualification…

I did the BASIS Certificate in Crop Protection – Commercial Horticulture. It’s a 6-month course which includes a combination of classroom-based learning, a practical project and visits to growers. It’s a lengthy course and crams in a lot of information but luckily our exam was just in time for Christmas!

Who is BASIS?

BASIS is an organisation which supports professional development across land management and food production. It provides this support through training courses, professional registers and auditing schemes. However, once you’ve passed your exams, there’s no resting on your laurels! Once you have completed the course you have to continue to collect CPD (Continued Professional Development) points every year to maintain membership and ensure your knowledge and skills are kept up to date.

What makes this qualification valuable?

The qualification is renowned across the fresh produce industry and has a reputation for high standards. Many people from growers, to fertiliser and pesticide suppliers, to R&D managers, to biological control suppliers have completed the course.

This is just the beginning of my skills journey in food production – my BASIS membership provides me with a career of learning the most up to date knowledge in the sector. The course brings new skills and knowledge into the business whilst enabling me to do our jobs better. Whilst aspects of Vitacress production honour the traditions of our industry, we also strive to remain innovative and forward thinking.

The course was on integrated pest management, which is a key topic for our industry – we need to protect our crops from pests and diseases, but we want to do so in an environmentally friendly way. Vitacress cares about its produce, the environment, and its customers. Training employees with courses like this helps Vitacress to ensure that we grow the best possible crops, in the most environmentally conscious way. This means our customers are buying nutritious, affordable fresh food whilst not having to worry about their personal impact on the environment.

Is it rare for fresh produce companies to have specialists with this qualification?

Many assured food standards agencies like Red Tractor, who work closely with supermarkets, require anyone providing advice on the use of professional plant protection products to be BASIS qualified. It’s not mandatory for fresh produce companies to employ people with this qualification, but Vitacress values professional development and knows how important it is for us to continue to develop our skills.

What areas did you study (in simple terms please)?

I studied integrated pest management which is the prevention, detection and control of pests and diseases in an environmentally conscious way. Rather than relying on chemical pesticides, the course taught cultural controls, natural predators of pests, and bio stimulants which strengthen the plants and make them more resilient to attack. I also learnt about the laws and legislation surrounding the use, application, storage, and approval process for plant protection products.

Is Vitacress good at supporting L&D and additional training?

Yes, Vitacress has a history of investing in training and development of its employees through courses like BASIS. Most of the agronomy teams in Vitacress Salads and Herbs are either BASIS trained or have a similar qualification.

How will it support your development?

The course has taught me a lot about integrated pest management which is now helping direct my research and development to help our growers. It will help me in my future career as it’s a qualification that is highly desired in the industry. I never thought I’d see the day I can put letters after my name! Who wouldn’t be proud of that?!

Vitacress is delighted to be partnering in a new research project, led by The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) to help the horticultural trade transition to sustainable growing media.

A £1million, co-funded, five-year project will convene government, growers and growing media manufacturers through the Growing Media Association and horticultural product supplier Fargro to research sustainable alternatives to peat in large-scale commercial settings.

“Vitacress Herbs is excited to be partnering with the RHS and other partners from across our industry to accelerate progress towards growing peat-free.”

David Walmsley, MD of Vitacress Herbs

“We grow and sell over 16 million pots of culinary and horticulture herbs each year and have made great progress in this area to date. In 2023, all of our horticulture range available in selected garden centres and RHS stores, will be grown peat-free. Through this collaboration, we aim to identify a sustainable growing media which delivers quality plant growth, is safe for food, cost-effective and has a viable long-term supply chain.”

Areas of focus for the group will include peat free plant and plug plant production, new growing media technologies to replace the estimated 1.7m m3 of peat used by the UK horticultural industry in 2021, growing protocols, best practice use of the latest products, and developing peat-free solutions for challenging plant groups such as carnivorous and ericaceous species.

Five growers initially will work alongside Dr Raghavendra Prasad who has joined the RHS’ 120-strong Science team at RHS Hilltop: Home of Gardening Science this month. They are: Allensmore, Hills Plants, Johnsons of Whixley, The Farplants Group and Vitacress who collectively produce more than 46 million plants every year.

Findings will also be shared ongoing with the wider industry to aid the transition to peat-free.