Tom Amery

The Wasabi Company/The Watercress Company

Wasabi – From Project to Plate

About Tom Amery

I started a career with The Watercress Company (TWC) as a Trainee Manager in 1999. Under the guidance of Peter Old the Chairman, I was presented with the opportunity to grow with the business as it evolved significantly over the next 18 years. I was appointed Sales & Technical Director within 4 years of joining the business, Managing Director in 2007 responsible for 3 business units and shortly after this I took an opportunity to become a Partner in the company. Employing over 120 staff in the UK with over 300 globally, TWC produces in excess of 4.8m kg of fresh watercress, baby leaf salads and wasabi across the its farms in the UK, Spain and Florida with outlets in over 4500 stores in the UK from national retailer accounts to independents.

As a business leader, I firmly believe in the importance of collaboration and sharing knowledge as well as opportunity to enhance the ability of staff to progress personally while ensuring they are adapting the business to market requirements. The business is regarded as a benchmark for innovation and product development within the industry.

Following key business developments in the local community, I recently committed to becoming part of the strategic leadership team in local education for 3 years at Kingston Maurward Agricultural College; the objective, to provide a better resource for the local community that is sustainable and meets the long-term requirements of businesses and students.

We are watercress growers and watercress has been grown on our Dorset and Hampshire farms since the 1850s.
It was watercress that led us to our diversification into wasabi.

Our story begins with a chef visiting one of our watercress farms in May 2010 who remarked how the only other crop he had seen growing in similar conditions was wasabi in Japan. That was enough to plant a seed in our minds and we began looking at what it might take to grow wasabi in the UK. We discovered a lot of similarities between the conditions required for watercress and wasabi. We also discovered plenty of warnings that wasabi was a difficult crop to grow and that it had never been successfully cultivated in Europe.

The gauntlet duly laid down we began growing wasabi in some previously abandoned watercress beds and after a good deal of trial and error we brought our first wasabi crop to maturity two years later. It has been a steep learning curve and we are still given plenty of surprises by our wasabi crops. Each year we see something different and any mistakes take a long time to put right with a two year growth curve. Harvesting a fully mature plant is always an event as it is only when you pull the whole plant you can see what you have yielded.

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