Agri-business innovation - a leading voice
Posted on 4th February 2019 at 10:02
We are delighted to kick-off the jsglobal interview series with insights from Laurence Olins, the 2018 winner of a Lifetime Achievement Award for services to the fresh produce industry, and the FPJ Editors Award for outstanding achievements in the UK Fresh Produce industry. He is the only person to have won both awards in one year.
An acknowledged expert in the international food industry, he draws on over 40 years of experience with UK and overseas farms, supply chains, major supermarkets, investors, government departments and ministerial appointments.
Laurence's roles have encompassed Managing Director and then Chairman of the Poupart Group of companies, the UK’s largest privately-owned produce company, and responsible for the extraordinary growth in year-round availability of soft fruits, with growers across Europe, Morocco, South Africa and Australia. Their international breeding programmes are coordinated and controlled, with experimental trials addressing climatic change and resource management, to analyse the optimum results.
He was made Master of the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers in 2000, one of the City of London’s ancient Livery Companies. Established before 1300 AD it stands 45th in order of precedence of the Livery Companies. Over the 700 years of its existence, the Company has assumed a number of different roles. From its earliest beginnings as a classical medieval guild it has flourished throughout its long history, and more than half of the current membership is engaged directly with the fruit industry.
The Company administers prestigious awards and prizes for excellence, and grants funding support for education and research into fruit culture, marketing and fruit products. The Council also acts as a catalyst for educational programmes directed at the fruit sector and offers financial support to a scholar from the Nuffield Farming Trust. Laurence was personally responsible for the creation and development of the hugely successful and influential annual City Food Lecture, jointly promoted by the seven food-related Livery Companies – sustainability continues to be top of the agenda. The Worshipful Company of Fruiterers is also a key influencer of informed debate of the most topical issues in food preparation and distribution. Climate change has been a dominant theme for a number of years.
As Chairman of British Summer Fruits (the UK Crop Association for soft fruits) for over 13 years, only stepping down in 2016, his influence in taking climate risk and opportunity to the forefront of the industry has been paramount, and he is a respected advisor to the global agri-sector. Climate change is a real live issue for this business – growing patterns and resource management are having to deal with the pressure created by a warming world, and the increasing intensity of extreme weather events. He has also warned publicly with interviews on the BBC’s flagship news programme of the risks of Brexit and how it could crush the industry unless seasonal labour supply is guaranteed.
Laurence was personally responsible for pushing sustainability to the top of the agenda for the Poupart Group, and talks animatedly of how it underpins everything they do. In his words “it’s now very much part of the company’s DNA”. Community, education, supply chain efficiency and the environment were identified as key elements within the company’s approach to corporate social responsibility and a wide range of business benefits were achieved as a result, including not only cost savings and a reduced environmental impact but also improvements in terms of employee involvement and reputation.
He is enthused by the creative innovation in the industry. Agri-business is not often cited as foremost in sustainability, but as a result of his extraordinary engagement with leading thinkers – and do-ers – we will have access to examples of cutting-edge approaches on energy creation, water management and application of world-leading technology applied to growing crops and feeding the global population as it heads towards 9.8 billion people by 2050. Our next 3 jsglobal interviews will address these vital concerns.
Quick fire questions:
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Fish or fowl? Fish
G&T or glass of wine? Wine
Book or movie? Movie
Shakespeare or Pinter? Pinter
Opera or musical? Opera
Chinese or Italian? Italian
Football or cricket? Cricket
Couldn’t get through the weekend without? Couldn’t get through the weekend without seeing my family and four granddaughters
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