Setting out from historic university town Cambridge this morning, the ATMAC European Study Group first stopped in at agricultural and environmental research consultancy ADAS, before visiting Stourgarden/PG Rix, one of the UK’s largest onion growers.


At ADAS, we got a whistlestop overview of the many areas the researcher is working on. There were two recurrent themes; environmental sustainability and adapting to climate change.


Of particular interest to the group was research to develop a peat-free propagation medium. Peat has historically been a major medium in the UK and is still widely used, but peat harvesting is increasingly seen as un unsustainable practice.


A project to develop a carbon accounting app for protected cropping growers also prompted discussion about the state of carbon accounting in Australia.


The group then moved on to Stourgarden/PG Rix. The company is one of the largest onion growers-marketers in the UK, supplying about 30% of the UK onion market.


Managing Director George Rix talked us through the changing dynamic between growers and retailers in the UK. British growers are increasingly pushing back against retailers and setting prices themselves, rather than being price takers as in Australia.


This is largely the result of demand for British-grown produce outstripping supply, and the consolidation of growers versus a comparatively fragmented retail market. Suppliers like Stourgarden/PG Rix are now very focused on long-term contracts with buyers, and do nearly no short-term trading.