Technology giving pollinators a helping hand at Gilpin Farms
August 1, 2023
Following a successful trial last year, M&S has announced an expansion of its partnership with agri-tech start-up AgriSound to an additional 18 sites across the UK, and Gilpin Farms are delighted to have been selected to participate in the scheme.
Two in-field sensor trials were launched last year to help farmers better support pollinators like bumblebees and increase crop yields. AgriSound Polly technology allows farmers to track the number of pollinators visiting their farm in real-time and target specific interventions, like differing wildflower densities, for improving numbers and yields and quality of crops, as well as benefitting the wider environment.
This programme will cover a diverse range of M&S’s fruit, veg and salad farms, making up 8% of M&S British growers, with monitors covering 120 habitats and over 1000 hectares, the largest number of growers reached through a retailer-funded trial to date. The technology will provide growers access to real-time data and insights to help set their farms up to be more nature friendly.
Gilpin Farms is an M&S Select Farm which supplies a range of vegetables including carrots, leeks, pumpkins and brussel sprouts to the high-street retailer.
AgriSound are biodiversity experts that have developed specialist listening devices, which combine acoustic technology and environmental sensors to monitor the density of key pollinators, including bumblebees and honeybees, as well as the wider insect community remotely. The devices collect and send data via mobile data, with users able to see results via a smartphone or web app.
At Gilpin Farms the sensors will be located in the pumpkin fields surrounding the Armagh site.
Elaine Neill, Head of Sustainability and Innovation at Gilfresh Produce said: “Pollinators play a vital role in helping us deliver the best quality produce we can at the farm – so we’re keen to see the impact AgriSound technology has on activity. With so many current environmental challenges, it’s more important than ever to understand pollinators better.”
Richard Gilpin, Head of Farm Operations at Gilpin Farms commented: “The technology will be invaluable to help us monitor the pollinator activity across the whole farm but particularly in the pumpkin crops. We currently bring in over 100 hives of Bumble and Honey Bees to aid the pollination of the pumpkins and the AgriSound technology will monitor how effective this is and also help us to make informed decisions about further interventions.
“We’re delighted to have been selected by M&S as one of the locations for this expansion and excited to see what beneficial outcomes can be achieved by these relatively simple measures. If we can attract more pollinators to our farm, this will be a huge success.”
The collaboration is part of M&S’ Farming with Nature programme, launched in 2021 to support the retailer’s Select Farmers to become more resilient to environmental challenges spanning climate change and biodiversity loss.
As part of the programme, M&S has partnered with specialist industry partner LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) to strengthen pollinator-friendly farming practices across M&S’s grower base in the UK. M&S British fruit and vegetable growers are adopting higher standards, developed in partnership with LEAF, to boost biodiversity. This means, for example, that growers set aside between 5-10% of habitat for wildlife and monitor numbers of farmland birds and pollinators. Today, M&S Select Farm growers are protecting and enhancing 9,500 hectares of habitats across the UK, with the growers on average setting aside 7% of their farms to wildlife, delivering the biodiversity badly needed across supply chains.
Andrew Clappen, Technical Director at M&S Food, said: “Improving biodiversity is at the forefront of our plans to help farmers become more resilient to the impact of climate change. Pollinators are the unsung heroes of British farming – helping to improve yields and quality while benefitting the wider environment.
Since we launched Farming with Nature, we’ve been hosting workshops offering advice to our M&S Select Farmers on the best ways to attract more pollinators. Now, by expanding out our partnership with AgriSound, Gilpin Farms will have real-time data and valuable insights into what’s working and what’s not.
We’re also working closely with farmers on land use and different wildflower mixes to boost pollinator numbers, alongside crop health and pest management.”
Gill Perkins, Chief Executive of the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, said: “It’s fantastic to see a major retailer investing in both supporting and monitoring our essential wild pollinators. Bumblebees and other pollinators ensure that the food we eat is nutritious, healthy and tasty, by working in the fields from dawn until dusk every day – they are our unsung heroes of food production and it’s great to see them receive the recognition they deserve and the support they need to survive.”
Casey Woodward, Founder and CEO of AgriSound, said: “We’re delighted that M&S has decided to roll-out AgriSound technology to more of its Select Farms. The development of our Polly™ devices has taken years of dedicated research and it is really exciting to see our technology continuing to deliver unique insights into pollinator activity. I look forward to working closely with the Select Farmers to help protect local pollinator communities.”
Hardy Memorial Primary School Growing With Gilfresh
May 25, 2023
We were delighted to welcome Primary 3 pupils from Hardy Memorial Primary School in Richhill on a visit to our site recently to help the pupils learn about where their food comes from and what process their vegetables go through to get from our farm to their fork.
With pumpkin planting ongoing at Gilfresh throughout the month of May, the visit started off in one of the pumpkin fields so that the children could see some planting taking place. Managing Director of Gilfresh Produce, William Gilpin and Head of Farm Operations, Richard Gilpin, explained to the children the processes involved in planting, growing and harvesting the crop. The children then got the opportunity to get their sleeves rolled up and plant some pumpkins themselves, which they thoroughly enjoyed.
The children also enjoyed a tour of our production facilities, which enabled them to see what happens to the crops after they are harvested to prepare the vegetables for the supermarket shelves. During the tour, the pupils were able to see the vegetables being washed and packed, where the vegetables are stored and how they are despatched. They also received an insight into the company’s Anaerobic Digester Plant which enables us to create our own green energy on site, reducing our impact on the environment.
Speaking about the visit, William Gilpin commented, “Gilfresh Produce were delighted to link up with Hardy Memorial Primary School to provide the children with an insight into where their food comes from and to educate them on the process involved in getting the food from ‘Farm to Fork’. We hope this experience will help bring to life what they are learning in the classroom and help inspire some future stars in the Agri-Food Industry. We look forward to welcoming the children back in September to harvest the pumpkins which they planted during their visit”.
Gilfresh Sampling at Spar
Gilfresh Receive Support for Growth
March 16, 2023
Gilfresh Produce is in receipt of a grant for Selective Financial Assistance from Invest NI for a capital project. This project is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme 2014-2020.
Gilfresh Produce bringing ‘Fresh Value’ to the market with Aldi Ireland
March 9, 2023
Gilfresh Produce, leading vegetable growers and producers based in Co. Armagh are delighted to have extended their portfolio of prepared vegetable products through the launch of their brand new ‘Fresh Value’ range which is available now in Aldi Ireland stores.
The first line in the new ‘Fresh Value’ range to launch in Aldi Ireland is the Rainbow Vegetable Stir Fry – a colourful mix of carrot, cabbage, onion, leek, peppers and sweetcorn, which is all prepared and ready to be cooked to make a tasty, healthy stir-fry dinner, in less than 6 minutes.
The ‘Fresh Value’ range was developed as Gilfresh Produce was keen to respond to the current cost of living crisis which is presenting ongoing challenges for consumers. As household budgets continue to be squeezed, the Gilfresh ‘Fresh Value’ Range offers consumers fresh produce mealtime solutions that deliver on quality as well as on value, something which is so important in today’s market.
The launch of the new ‘Fresh Value’ range into Aldi Ireland is in addition to the existing Gilfresh Produce Prepared Vegetable Range already stocked by the retailer, which includes lines such as the Gilfresh Produce Cut Soup Vegetables, Shredded Green Cabbage and their Carrot, Cauliflower and Broccoli Mix.
Matthew Johnston, Account Executive with Gilfresh Produce commented, “Gilfresh Produce is delighted to launch our new ‘Fresh Value’ range in Aldi Ireland stores. The addition of the ‘Fresh Value’ range to our portfolio of products comes at the ideal time for consumers who are feeling their budgets being squeezed due to the rising cost of living. Our new ‘Fresh Value Rainbow Vegetable Stir-Fry’ offers consumers an affordable option to ensure they are still enjoying healthy, quality, fresh local produce.”
Look out for the Gilfresh Fresh Value Rainbow Vegetable Stir-Fry available in Aldi Stores across Ireland now.
CAFRE Students Visit Gilfresh
March 1, 2023
We were delighted to welcome a group of CAFRE students along with their lecturers to our site last week.
Our Head of Sustainability and Innovation, Elaine Neill and General Manager, William Guindi met with the students to give them an overview of our business. They also shared with the students some of the challenges facing the agri-food industry at present and highlighted the opportunities that exist for businesses in achieving net zero.
We are really delighted to see CAFRE including sustainability within their degree programmes as it is such an important issue for our industry today and one which we are very committed to here at Gilfresh Produce.
Wishing all the students the best of luck with the remainder of the studies and future careers.
Guest Lecturing at Queen’s University
February 14, 2023
Gilfresh Produce Recruitment Day
February 13, 2023
Gilfresh Produce ‘Grows’ Range with Aldi Ireland
January 31, 2023
Gilfresh Produce, leading vegetable growers and producers based in Co. Armagh are delighted to have extended their product range with ALDI Ireland. The range of Gilfresh lines stocked in Aldi Ireland stores now includes Gilfresh Produce Cut Soup Vegetables, Shredded Green Cabbage and their Carrot, Cauliflower and Broccoli Mix.
The new lines which are now being listed by Aldi Ireland are in addition to the Gilfresh Produce Vegetable Stir-Fry, Oriental Stir-Fry, Carrot Batons, Vegetable Fajita Kit and Vegetable Spice Bag kit which were already being stocked by the retailer.
The Gilfresh Produce range of freshly prepared vegetables are produced at the company’s base in Loughgall using the finest quality, freshest ingredients. The range offers the ideal solution for people with busy lifestyles who strive to get their 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. All the peeling, chopping and dicing is done for you and the produce is ready to cook. It couldn’t be easier.
Matthew Johnston, Account Executive with Gilfresh Produce commented, “Since we started supplying Aldi in May 2022 we are delighted that the relationship has grown from strength to strength. We are delighted to be able to bring a wider range of Gilfresh products to Aldi Ireland customers through these new listings and hope to continue to grow our business with Aldi Ireland further in the future.”
Look out for the range of Gilfresh Produce prepared vegetable range in Aldi Stores across Ireland now.
Gilfresh Produce Featuring on UTV’s ‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’
UTV’s Rare Breed is back on our screens and Gilfresh Produce is delighted to be featured in this series.
‘Rare Breed – A Farming Year’ is a documentary which charts the reality of farming in the 21st century in Northern Ireland, giving a unique insight into one of Northern Ireland’s largest and oldest industries.
The team from Rare Breed followed William Gilpin (owner) and Richard Gilpin (Head of Farm Operations) from Gilfresh during 2022 as they worked with the team here to grow and produce vegetables for a wide a range of customers across the island of Ireland including retailers, wholesalers and food producers.
The first episode, which aired on 19th January 2023, visited Gilfresh Produce in January 2022 when the team was busy harvesting savoy cabbages, some of which actually made their way to customers in Spain.
As the series progresses the show will feature many highlights and challenges which the team at Gilfresh face across a typical year to grow and produce the highest quality vegetables.
Be sure to tune into UTV every Thursday night at 8.30pm to see what Gilfresh and the other eleven featured farms are getting up to from month to month.
You can also catch up on the series if you missed any episodes – just click here.