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The joint venture has taken over UK Salads’ packhouse in Roydon in Essex and its surrounding nurseries

Grower GreenPort Fresh has promised to “rejuvenate” the Lea Valley fresh produce sector after acquiring the assets of collapsed horticulture business UK Salads.

The business is a new partnership between Green Star Produce, a UK-based Moroccan grower representative company, and Port International Dutch Growers, a subsidiary of Hamburg-based fresh produce supplier Port International.

The joint venture has taken over UK Salads’ packhouse in Roydon in Essex and its surrounding nurseries – facilities that were previously rented from UK Salads by the two businesses.

It said it would make sure these “valuable assets are put to excellent use” and that it will retain as much of the workforce as possible, whilst becoming “an important player” in the UK growing sector – seeking supply deals from retailers using a mix of UK-grown and imported produce.

“A key motivation for the shareholders in starting operations with GreenPort Fresh was the lack of high-quality service provision on lean cost models in the UK,” said the company in a statement.

“We aim to streamline activities between Port International exclusive partner farms in Europe to better serve UK retailers. Green Star’s member grower partners, who produce salads, vegetables, citrus, berries, and sweetcorn, [also] plan to invest in and utilise the site to enhance packing services for retail customers.”

The business said it also planned to engage with the Lea Valley Growers Association “to attract new growers and offer rental opportunities to those interested in joining the venture”.

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The acquisition of the operation gave the new business an “immediate operational advantage”, it added, and allowed it to minimise waste and maximise efficiency by repurposing the existing infrastructure to meet current operational needs.

“The commitment to creating jobs, fostering sustainability, and collaborating with local growers positions GreenPort Fresh as a beacon of positive change,” it said.

GreenPort Fresh would “implement cutting-edge, environmentally-friendly agricultural practices for local production as well as for the import of salads from Spain, Italy, Turkey and Morocco”, it added.

These practices included the use of renewable energy sources, adopting water-saving irrigation techniques and promoting organic farming methods.

UK Salads was a major supplier of fresh produce for Aldi and other retailers, operating 60 acres worth of greenhouses.

It collapsed into administration in February, owing creditors more than £18m, including £256k to Green Star Produce and £249.3k to Port International.

Administrators FRP said the business had faced “challenging trading conditions” before its collapse, with the company’s demise leading to a scramble to avoid £15m worth of greenhouse crops going to waste.

When approached for comment the Lea Valley Growers Association said it had not yet received an application for membership from GreenPort Fresh, but that it “works hard on behalf of its members to support and promote their interests”.