Professor Gail Taylor – Chair
Gail Taylor is Professor and Chair (Head of Department) of Plant Sciences, University of California, Davis – routinely voted as Number 1 globally for Plant and Animal Sciences.
Gail is responsible for 750 people, over 2,000 acres of experimental farm, 150 acres orchard, 90,000 sq. feet of glasshouse and laboratory, >$50 million budget, and a significant endowment. She oversees the management of seven Research Information Centres focussed on Translational Plant Sciences – plant science that matters for problem-solving.
Gail has trained over 50 graduate students to PhD and her current research is improving the safety and quality of leafy green crops for indoor and outdoor production systems. This includes reducing the water footprint of culinary herbs, improving the anti-cancer properties of watercress and developing more sustainable cropping systems for future resource-limited climates. She also has a long-term interest in plants used for bioenergy.
Lady Alison Wakeham MBE DL – Patron
Alison Wakeham has lived in Hampshire for 25 years, near Alresford, overlooking the watercress beds.
Alison is a Deputy Lieutenant of Hampshire and is patron or trustee of a number of local and national charities and organisations. She is a keen conservationist and gardener.
Toby Brinsmead was appointed Chief Executive Officer for the Vitacress group of companies in September 2013. He has a BA (Hons) in Accounting and Finance and became a Chartered Management Accountant in 1995. He spent his early career working in healthcare insurance before gaining extensive experience of the food industry with Dairy Crest where, over a 14 year period, he held a number of financial positions before taking over as Managing Director of Dairies in 2008.
Toby is keen to see Vitacress continue its commitment to sustainability and environmental issues, which are underpinned by the formation of the Vitacress Conservation Trust.
Dr Steve Rothwell
Dr Steve Rothwell has a PhD in the Nutritional & Environmental Physiology of Watercress, gained at the University of Bath in 1983. In this same year, joined Hampshire Watercress Ltd (later to become Vitacress Salads Ltd) as Head of Research and Development.
Over the next 20 years, Steve led Vitacress’ agronomic development and extensive research work. As Technical Director he was responsible for food safety and quality and as Production Director for growing operations. In addition, he drove the Group’s Sustainability agenda and within that its environmental and conservation initiatives. Steve semi-retired in 2015, taking up a Non-Executive Director role in which he continues to oversee the company’s research and environmental strategy.
Steve is Vice Chairman of the NFU Watercress Growers’ Association and is a member of the Institute of Biology, a Chartered Biologist and a member of the Institute of Horticulture.
Vitacress has attained ISO 14001 accreditation in recognition of its environmental standards and has won a number of environmental awards. These include the SEEDA Sustainable Business Environment Award 2008 and the Regional Chamber of Commerce Green Award 2008.
Dr Martin Burton
Dr Martin Burton is an independent consultant specialising in water resources, irrigation management and institutional development with over 40 years’ experience in some 32 countries. He has an international reputation in the fields of water management, performance assessment, benchmarking, asset management and institutional development.
Over the last 15 years, Martin has worked primarily as a consultant to the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). During his 15 years at the Institute of Irrigation and Development Studies, University of Southampton, Martin worked on several research projects related to Hampshire’s water resources, including two irrigation studies for Vitacress Salads.
Martin worked as a volunteer with the Hampshire Water Partnership (HWP) from 2003 onwards and was appointed Chair from May 2007-June 2008. He later organised the 6th Hampshire Water Festival in Romsey for the HWP and oversaw the holding of two subsequent festivals at Staunton Country Park in Havant. Martin has been an active member of the Upper Itchen Initiative since it’s inception. He has written over 50 papers and is the author of the book Irrigation Management: Principles and Practices and co-author of a book on performance assessment of irrigation and drainage schemes. Since 2016 he has run a module on management of irrigation schemes for Master’s students at the UNESCO-IHE University in Delft, Holland.
Graham is a retired ecologist, who spent the last 25 years of his career with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. During that time, he specialised in mammal recovery and wetland restoration, particularly within chalk river catchments.
Originally an aerial photographer, both in the UK and later in Africa, following a five-year part-time degree course in Environmental Science, Graham switched to a rewarding career linked with nature conservation. Graham was on one of the first government led Habitat Action Plan Groups set up to protect Britain’s almost unique chalk rivers and represented the Wildlife Trust Movement on species recovery for otters in South East England.
Now retired, Graham is an active Trustee with the Vitacress Conservation Trust and also chairs a large stakeholder group associated with active protection of the Upper Itchen River Catchment, retaining his lifelong passion for the wider wetland environments.
Graham lives near Lyme Regis and is actively involved in local natural history groups, training days and more local survey volunteer groups.