In glorious Kentish sunshine, dedicating a building that she referred to as a ‘giant shed’ with more than a touch of irony.
In fact, the ‘shed’ is the state-of-the-art Dynamically Controlled Atmosphere storage facility, the only one of its type in the UK for a Bramley apple processor; built for us with a capacity of 1,000 tonnes and at a cost of £1m.
The dedication was to my father, John Acock (1929 – 2008), the second of three generations of our family owned and operated business. Dad was a manufacturer, farmer and an apple-processing pioneer; and the dedication was all about celebrating that: the impact he had on the business and also on employment in the area.
Our car park hasn’t always been a car park. In the 1950s it provided open storage for hundreds of dull grey 225kg plastic drums, four to a pallet, containing orange peel, plum puree, strawberry puree and more; stacked precariously in the uneven field and using high levels of SO2 to preserve the contents.
Friday was a dramatic demonstration of how far fruit product storage has come since then.
The DCA (Dynamically Controlled Atmosphere) storage unit uses highly tuned computer technology to monitor apple stress as CO2 and oxygen levels are adjusted. At the critical point the apples are breathing at the minimum level and unstressed. Computers continue to adjust levels minutely to keep them that way, without use of chemicals, in order to deliver high quality fresh Bramley apples for processing up to 12 months later.
The new DCA storage facility was part-funded by a grant from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and leads the way in fruit storage. It also stands on the site of the original factory (ironically known as the ‘peeling shed’) where Fourayes peeled its first Bramley apple in 1963. Then, the process involved hand-powered machines for peeling and coring. The resulting ‘snowballs’ would pass to an army of ‘trimmers’ who would trim out defects and slice the apples – placing them in plastic bowls not dissimilar to washing up bowls ready for packing and despatch.
As Helen Whately MP observed: ‘Agriculture is a wonderful combination of traditions and generations of knowledge and also modern technology. Only by having a successful fruit growing industry can people eat affordable high quality British food and also because there are local jobs and the local economy depends on it.’
Today, the peeling and coring process is carried out at Fourayes by the world’s most advanced machines – worthy companions to the advanced DCA storage, near the car park, that used to be a field.
Managing Director of Fourayes, vice-chairman of British Apples & Pears, Fruitician and Mad Scientist.