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?!