John Handford

john handford

John graduated from Wye College (University of London) with a BSc (Hons) in Plant Sciences. For the next five years he worked in farm management growing outdoor salad and vegetable crops, including a few months in Spain.

Joining FAST over 30 years ago, John has been specialising in soft fruit crops since August 1989 advising growers throughout the UK as well as in a handful of European countries.


Graham Moore BSc MPBR

graham moore

Based in the west of England, living in Herefordshire but travelling widely, Graham provides advice to tree and berry fruit growers. Specialising in plant husbandry, fertigation, biological control and modern growing systems, Graham has more than 30 years of experience in consultancy, but his career has included spells as as a grower and a farm manager. Graham acts as an advisor to the Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board (soft fruit sector panel) and has travelled widely overseas promoting, and advising on, protected growing systems for fruit crops.

I was very fortunate after a period of travelling during which I found myself working as a labourer on fruit farms in Australia and New Zealand, my degree course at Bath University involved a series of placements out in the horticultural industry. Those included a spell at what was then the New Zealand Apple & Pear Marketing Board and one at FAST who offered me a full-time position when I graduated. Right from the start there was never a dull moment at FAST. Having spent a few years away from FAST between 2001 and 2006 I am even better placed to appreciate the benefits of working within a team of enthusiastic specialists entirely focussed on extending horticultural science into practice in a dynamic sector of food production that is so quick to innovate’.

James Shillitoe BSc Hons (Agric)

james shillitoe

Graduating with a BSc (Hons.) in Agriculture from Seale-Hayne Agricultural College (Plymouth Uni.), my first few years of agricultural experience was dominated by livestock, with some arable thrown in for good measure; coming from the west country I had expected that to continue.

However, my career took me into the area of crop production, specialising in the growing and harvesting of salad crops, including ‘baby leaf’ crops, vegetables and herbs for the U.K. market. This path gave me the opportunity to live and work in a number of countries including Zimbabwe and Kenya and also 12 years in Portugal; also gaining experience in the start-up and development of production sites and the growing of novel crops.

Joining FAST in 2008 saw me transition from grower to top fruit advisor. Based in Faversham, Kent, I visit farms in the South East and East Anglia. Since joining FAST, I have been able to develop specialisms and introduce new ideas. These include:

  • Harvest dates prediction for cherry and apple (Gala and Braeburn)
  • Fruit size growth curves
  • Introduction of fruit Dry Matter content; development as a tool to rank orchard in order of storage potential and assess fruit quality
  • Crop maturity, fruit quality and post-harvest
  • Gala clones; assessing performance at harvest
  • Multi – stem trees; orchard design for the future
  • Pesticide application

Devon Swart

After completing my schooling, I started working in the agriculture industry. I joined an international soft fruit farm in my hometown of George, Western Cape, South Africa. I then moved on to a farm in the United States of America, where I gained individual practical and hands-on experience and it is this experience I applied into my future in the agricultural industry.
On returning to my hometown, I re-joined my previous company as a grower of multiple soft fruit crops, such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries as well as the propagation thereof. This is where over the past 7years, I have grown as a leader, team player and developed into a specialist in my field of expertise.
I pride myself with a sound work ethic, strong moral compass and I am enthused about the opportunity to continue growing at FAST LLP in both my personal and professional role.

Andy Leppenwell

After leaving school Andy started working for Wakeley Bros in the early 1980’s as a forklift driver, QC and then running the packhouse. He then went on to work for UniFruit Co as a QC. UniFruit was taken over by CapeSpan and whilst working for them, Andy frequently travelled to Europe and South Africa.

Andy joined FAST in 2014 for 3 days a week, taking on many roles like soil sampling, recording bud stages, fruit sizing to name but a few. At the same time, he set up his own Antiques and Collectibles shop “Mr Meadowlarks” at Standard Quay in Faversham.