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Five members of staff from AHDB joined HCP on 15 April

Horticulture Crop Protection, the not-for-profit offshoot of AHDB’s now-defunct horticulture arm, has officially launched and announced the appointment of a new CEO.

Five members of staff from AHDB joined HCP on 15 April. The transfer of relevant information and residual levy funds have also been agreed with AHDB in order for HCP to continue some of the work of its predecessor.

HCP CEO Simon Conway, who will work in the role part-time, has most recently worked as MD of Vitacress Salads & Herbs, and has been with the Vitacress business since 2006.

Conway was described as an operational leader with experience of change management, revenue growth and experience of developing new market segments and products.

“I am excited to be joining HCP and leading this new organisation at the start of its journey through the vital work it is going to do for the benefit of the UK horticultural sector,” said Conway.

Conway will begin in mid-June with Jack Ward, CEO of the British Growers Association, continuing to lead HCP until then.

“Simon has an excellent understanding of the horticulture sector, has led significant changes at Vitacress and has a track record of building strong staff teams through coaching and empowerment,” said HCP board chair Ali Capper.

“Simon has plenty of experience in delivering a strong sustainability focus in business strategy, net zero and biodiversity planning and is passionate about the future of the EAMU and EA service for UK horticulture,” she added.

The five people to join from AHDB are Lindsey Daniel, Carlos Duarte, Grace Emeny, Dr Joanna McTigue and Dr Kim Parker. The group would “deliver continuity to the horticulture industry,” said Capper.

HCP will seek to continue some of the crop research work undertaken by the former AHDB Horticulture, which disbanded earlier this year following a vote by levy payers to abolish it in 2021. Its key responsibilities will include manage the EAMU (Extension of Authorisation for Minor Use) process – which prioritises pest and disease issues for each crop and gives the UK horticulture industry access to crop protection products.

It will also co-ordinate emergency approval applications for crop protection products, with the British Growers Association providing administrative back-up, including invoicing crop associations for their growers’ voluntary subscriptions to fund the organisation.

However, the creation of the new organisation has already prompted criticism from the growers who campaigned for a vote and succeeded in their aim of abolishing AHDB Horticulture, with the group, known as the AHDB Petitioners, slamming the decision to give around £1m in residual levy funding to HCP in February.

The petitioners said the “subsidy” to HCP would “disadvantage those in the industry who have been quietly and independently getting on with the work on EAMUs”.