UK: Growing delight for students testing alpine strawberries

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. During the degree, they are also given opportunities to work with local businesses that are trialing 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 flavor 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.

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