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Crystal ball gazing for 2030 – HTA Conference 2022

Crystal ball gazing at horticulture in 2030

At September’s HTA conference, What will our industry look like in 2030? delegates heard that a blend of pessimism and optimism will be key to successfully navigating through the financial, political and climate change challenges into the next decade.

After a considerable break, the Horticultural Trades Association was pleased to once again be hosting a conference, bringing together people from across many sectors to consider the future of horticulture. With presentations taking in finance through to the role of robots and shopping habits, delegates were left with no doubt that business is heading for a rocky road. But alongside digital opportunities, horticulture’s unrivalled role within the climate change agenda must be fully exploited to ensure the sector’s long-term future. James Barnes, HTA Chairman, kicked off proceedings saying: “The two key drivers are climate change and technology.” He asked if it is now time to change the term ‘ornamental horticulture’ to ‘environmental horticulture’? “I believe this would have a fundamental effect on how we're perceived by all stakeholders, by governments, and particularly by academia,” he says. “If we're going to attract young, talented people to our industry, then that direct association with environmental sciences must have a wider appeal and an understanding within government that climate change policy in the UK cannot take place without a strong domestic horticultural industry.”

Having an online and even virtual presence would be key within the digital world and, he says, are likely to bring opportunities that haven’t existed before. “Weaving together our physical spaces and people's experiences virtually is where success will lie,” he says.

So what does the future of horticulture in 2030 look like? GTN asked some of the conference speakers and delegates to gaze into a crystal ball.

James Barnes

Josh McBain. Global Consultancy Director. Foresight Factory

Wider environmental and eco concerns will become decoupled from financial trends and sustainability will remain an embedded factor in consumers commercial choices.

Developments we are likely to see are indoor hydroponic systems that use less water to grow herbs in the home and apps to track personal carbon footprints so individuals can be more informed about the impact of their eating, travel practices, buying decisions and lifestyles. Other

areas of research that will heighten garden product propositions include those being bred with the molecule zubrin that have a higher capacity to store carbon.

As customers increasingly demand that brands support the wider regeneration of biodiversity and resources, companies will move beyond net zero targets and will be showing their carbon positive (net plus) brand positioning. The garden centre industry could easily dial up carbon positive propositions across packaging and point of sale to drive future custom.

Dominic Harrison. Director of Global Trends. Foresight Factory

Shoppers will become more digitally connected and will hop between buying online and instore so retailers need to make this progression more seamless, both in their garden centres and how they present themselves online. How garden centres and brands are perceived online will be crucial to success. We will also see retailers redefining their sales space with more of it being used as places for customers to get involved, like classroom, workshop or community spaces, or perhaps areas just for relaxing.

The virtual economy will progress and garden centre retailers are ideally placed with product and plant knowledge to make the most of this new opportunity to help customers populate their own metaverse worlds with virtual plants, lifestyle and gardening solutions.

Mark Gregory

Mark Gregory. Garden designer. Landform Consultants

Will there still be real gardens at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2030? Yes, absolutely 100% but the gardens will have cleaned up their act on sustainability, impact and waste reduction. Chelsea is where trends are set and careers are made but the greatest challenge for designers, landscapers and nurseries supplying the plants will be to prove their sustainability credentials in the application phase. By 2030, gardens will have to be relocated afterwards or else they won’t be selected. This will be part of the audit and judging criteria so they will need to designed differently, possibly almost flat packed, so they can be easy to take down and build again. People like me will be teaching the next generation how to build sustainably, reduce waste, remove concrete, reuse landscaping products and come up with engineering solutions.

By 2030, QR codes and other digital channels will have replaced the 50,000 paper leaflets given out by each garden and I think Sunflower Street will come back in a contemporary way to focus on people's front and smaller gardens. This will also attract different investors with smaller, but equally vital, budgets.

Celebrating the best in the business

Making its debut at the conference evening dinner was the HTA Ornamental Grower of the Year awards to recognised and celebrate best practices in sustainable ornamental production. Launched at the association’s National Plant Show in the summer, it attracted 45 entries across five categories. Four industry judges came together to review all the submissions and consider their commitment and progress towards criteria including CO2 reduction, peat removal and water resilience.

Winners of the Best Inspirational Business, Best Young Plants Grower and Best Finished Plants Grower can now be entered into the International Grower of the Year competition hosted by the AIPH (the International Association of Horticultural Producers) results of which are announced at IPM, Essen, the horticultural trade show in Germany from 24-27 January 2023. “AIPH is delighted the HTA has identified such high quality businesses to be entered into the AIPH International Grower of the Year Awards 2023. In being part of this process, these companies have the opportunity to be aligned with the very best in the world and I wish them all the best,” says Tim Briercliffe, one of the judges and AIPH Secretary General.

• Best Young Plants Grower. Winner: Ball Colegrave • Best Finished Plants Grower. Winner: Allensmore Nurseries Highly commended: New Leaf Plants • Best Inspirational Business. Winner: Palmstead Nurseries. Highly commended: Allensmore Nurseries and Majestic Trees. • Best Young Grower (under 35 years of age). Winner: Eliot Barden. Majestic Trees. Highly commended: Mollie Higginson, New Leaf Plants • Best Staff Member. Winner: Gareth Edwards, New Leaf Plants Highly commended: Maria Bengtsson, Majestic Trees.

Simon Reeve. Television presenter and author

I’ve seen, first-hand, the negative effects of climate change which are rapidly accelerating, and shifting agricultural patterns in Africa and South America.

Over the next few decades we are going to have to adapt our islands for the future or we will fail as a country. We have the ability and the power to dramatically alter our world. We are going to have to plant, grow, landscape and reshape the hell out of Britain. Horticulture has got to take its place in the ranks of the professions alongside law, medicine and accountancy.

Michael Perry. Mr Plant Geek and social media influencer

I think we will be seeing customers wanting to take more control of their personal carbon scoring which will flow into how they garden and the plants they choose to put in their gardens. It offers real guidance to consumers and will make them feel they are really doing something to help the environment. I can see products and plants will need additional information on their label and packaging related to carbon scoring.

As an industry we are very good at passing down knowledge, such as why roof and rain gardens should be considered. I think we will see more of an industry focus on helping consumers appreciate and understand the wider benefits of horticulture and this, along with more ready-made packages (for example combinations of plants, pots and growing media), will make their buying decisions easier making them more likely to become gardeners.

Trevor Pfeiffer. Editor GTN

In 2030 bulbs will break through the soil and bloom, grass will grow, trees will burst into life, new plants will be planted to brighten gardens and patios, veg plants will be raised from seed, garden spaces will be used for parties and celebrations, children will play in gardens, bounteous veg and fruit crops will be harvested, birds and wildlife will be welcomed into gardens, gardens will be lit to celebrate Christmas. The only things that will change will be the quantity of the above, changes due to fashions, colours and difference in timings due to climate change, which we

Speakers at Horticulture –The Conference. What will our industry look like in 2030? were:

• James Barnes. HTA. • Josh McBain. Foresight Factory. • Vicky Pryce. Centre for Economics and Business Research. • Simon Reeve. Television presenter. • Dominic Harrison. Foresight Factory. • Tayhsan Hayden-Smith. Grow2Know project. • Michael Perry. Mr Plant Geek. • Tim Briercliffe. International Association of Horticultural Producers. • Mark Gregory. Landform Consultants. • Melanie Asker. Greenwood Plants. • Hattie Webb. Planet Mark. • David May. Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology. • Arit Anderson and Boyd DouglasDavies. Closing remarks.

can adapt to during the intervening years. So as long as we have homes with garden spaces and balconies then the future for horticulture for 2030 and beyond is far from pessimistic. No one wants to look out on drab spaces and plants are the best way of decorating gardens and homes. Plants and flowers make people smile!

Many of the speakers at the conference commented on how great the floral stage display, created by Tom Cook from British Garden Centres, was. ‘The best conference backdrop ever’ and ‘worthy of a Chelsea garden’ were the exultations. What they missed however was that the display was, in itself, the best clue to what horticulture would be like in 2030. Absolutely wonderful! We must all remember that and put our nurturing sense of positivity hat on to make sure we are the ones bringing joy to so many people in the UK.