AHDB is committed to helping horticulture to get the best and most out of the industry's workforce and operational management process, which is why we have launched SmartHort.


SmartHort aims to help the industry increase productivity and address the challenge of access to affordable labour through: improving management practices; supporting skills development; identifying new technologies.


Human labour accounts for between 30% and 70% of total variable production costs. The National Living Wage is driving labour costs up substantially at a time when margins are under strong downward pressure from retailers. Brexit may also alter the future availability of workers. 

Automation and robotics

In the longer-term, automation and robotics may offer some hope to offset these pressures. A survey has been conducted by AHDB to establish the current level of use of automation and robotics in horticulture and to identify where future investment in technologies could be made to help address concerns about labour availability and costs.

Labour Efficiency


To help maximise labour efficiencies for businesses in the shorter-term, a new campaign has also been launched.

In 2017, Lean consultants Management Performance Ltd (MPL) visited six horticultural businesses to observe and assess their use of labour and review their performance management. While each of the businesses were diverse in their size and crop sectors, there were clear commonalities for areas of improvement across all businesses.

A full report from the visits is available and highlights some key conclusions about how horticultural businesses may be able to make improvements in their own businesses. Find out if you could benefit from any of the recommendations in the report here

The report from MPL identified clear areas of development that are likely to be applicable to many horticultural businesses. AHDB are now building resources to help address these three key areas: management training support, developing standardising operations procedures and creating performance management systems.



This video, Creating Champion Employees, explains the principles of champion management practices and explains how they could be of use and benefit in your business. 



Steve Tones, horticulture strategy director at AHDB, said: “Addressing the increasing cost and decreasing availability of labour is one of the top three priorities of our strategy, and a key issue for most growers.”