Managing profitability and sustainability through innovation

Adapting their growing techniques and developing their own tailor-made machinery is helping the team at Rowe Farming make impressive strides towards a sustainable future.

Since expanding into daffodil production in 2010, Rowe Farming is using Cornwall’s ideal climate and fertile soil to produce both cut flowers and dry bulbs. Now stretching across 2,300 acres, the business distributes and sells its produce across the UK and Europe.

By combining new approaches and innovative thinking, the business is working towards a sustainable future: “Our current aim is to develop our growing strategy by progressing our production methods,” explained Rowe Farming Managing Director Rob Stacey.

“At the same time, we also want to be managing profitability in a way that is sustainable. For us, this means considering sustainability on an environmental, economic and people level.”

The business has already taken several steps with sustainability in mind: “In order to mitigate the impacts of climate change we are exploring new methods of environmental protection including the use of cover crops, modified planting and alternative crop establishment techniques. We are also increasing the geographic spread of our growing sites to reduce the risk of adverse weather.”

Taking an innovative approach is at the heart of their drive for sustainability, which has included designing and engineering a tailor-made bulb harvester. “We needed a machine able to cope with the undulating geography of West Cornwall and there was nothing available from mainstream manufacturers.

“By creating our own bulb harvester we have saved time and money, but we have also made the harvest operation safer for our staff. It has also allowed us to cope with periods of adverse weather more readily, which is important to the resilience of our business.”

The team is using cover crops to keep the ground covered throughout the year, reducing the environmental impact of leaving fields bare at certain times of the year. “We’ve experimented with cover crops for over 20 years and during that time, we have seen improvements to soil health and a significant reduction in soil erosion during periods of extreme rainfall. We have also increased biodiversity during the growing period of the main crop.”

Use of a cross-tied ridger is also bringing benefits: “Previously we suffered difficulties with rain and irrigation run-off. But using this bit of kit, which creates consistently sized dams to allow water reservoirs to collect and drain into the soil, we’ve significantly reduced the problem.”

The focus for the business now is building on the success of these initiatives. “In my mind, there is always room for improvement. Over the next few years, we will be continuing to refine what we are already doing, while also exploring other opportunities to help us work towards a sustainable future.”

Finalist, Best Sustainable Farming Initiative category, Cornwall Farming Business Awards 2023.