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2016 Thanet Earth Discovery Fellowship and Pepper Champion Announced

Posted on 30th September 2016 in Horticulture

This year’s prestigious Thanet Earth Discovery Fellowship was awarded to Nathaniel Oliver and the 2016 Pepper Champion award was given to Clare Hogan, both 2nd year BSc (Hons) Commercial Horticulture students.

The students are awarded an 8-month paid work placement, managing the College’s Discovery Greenhouses on behalf of Thanet Earth and working to assess trial varieties of tomatoes and peppers. They receive training and mentoring from specialists and gain a detailed insight into commercial horticulture, which complements their degree course content.

The students’ achievements were celebrated in a presentation ceremony at Thanet Earth on the 22nd September, attended by industry experts, including representatives from East Malling Research, the NFU, Tozer Seeds, The University of Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church University.

Guests arrived to a drinks reception, followed by an introductory speech by Rob James, Technical Director at Thanet Earth. He commented: “This Fellowship has become a key part of our long term innovation strategy at Thanet Earth. It’s proven very effective as a route to market for new varieties, and it’s had the additional benefit of nurturing mutually beneficial relationships between the science community, education and horticulture. With Hadlow College we’ve helped to join the dots and to generate local partnerships that drive momentum for new projects.”

Hadlow College’s spokesperson, Philip Orrell, spoke about the mutual benefits of the relationship and nurturing the next generation of growers, saying: “From an industry sensitivity perspective – the fellowship is like being given the commercial horticulture equivalent of the keys to Fort Knox. Passing judgement on the commercial viability of a variety trial crop is a hefty responsibility and it’s testament to the quality of all our students that Thanet Earth place full trust in them and us an organisation to deliver the desired outcomes. “

Nathaniel and Clare, who succeed Sean Fredericks and Donna Wolfe, both delivered speeches about the work they had been conducting in the College’s Discovery Greenhouses and guest speaker, Ali Capper, NFU Horticulture Chairman, presented the awards to the students. She spoke about the importance of encouraging students into horticulture and said of the Fellowship NPD work: “Consumers want things that are new and different. It can drive us mad but innovation is what makes our businesses successful.” The presentations were followed by a buffet lunch and tours of the greenhouses for the guests.
This year sees the fifth anniversary of the award-winning project, which involves the students undergoing a rigorous interview process with a panel consisting of Thanet Earth’s Technical Director Rob James, Sally Channon, NPD Manager at Thanet Earth, Alan Harvey – Hadlow College’s Commercial Horticulture degree programme leader, Martin Bradshaw – Hadlow College Nurseries General Manager and previous fellowship students.

The students are responsible for many different varieties – 67 in the case of the tomatoes, 40 for peppers - assessing vigour, size, susceptibility to disease, and most importantly, taste - all important points of difference for retail buyers. The students communicate with the technical and commercial teams at Thanet Earth, liaising with supermarkets and seedhouses, with the ultimate reward of seeing their varieties on the supermarket shelves.

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