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Matt Castle

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I wanted to travel the world, practicing what I’d learnt at Hadlow. So I applied for a job in one of the most remote and harshest climates on the planet.

Matt Castle
BSc Commercial Horticulture

Matt Castle is the manager of the government-run hydroponics farm on Ascension Island, an isolated volcanic island in the tropical mid-Atlantic, halfway between Brazil and Africa.

During World War II, it was an important naval and air station and is the location of RAF Ascension Island, a Royal Air Force station, European Space Agency rocket tracking station, an Anglo-American signals intelligence facility and the BBC World Service Atlantic Relay Station.

As the only grower of fresh food on Ascension, Matt has to battle the many challenges of growing in an arid, desert climate.

He recounts how he came to study at Hadlow: “I was a cosmetic chemist and enjoyed the practical side of my job, but didn’t enjoy not being outside. A friend had studied the same course and in talking to him, I became very interested.”

“Some of my best memories of Hadlow are the industry visits - talking to growers and workers in packhouses and learning from them how the theory is put into practice in real-world scenarios. I particularly enjoyed the science and crop production modules - then placing and implementing your knowledge in the field. Great fun!”

After he graduated, Matt was offered a job as a strawberry grower, but with the economy at the time hitting the buffers, he chose to take a job for DEFRA working as a plant health inspector at Heathrow. He says: “The DEFRA job went well, but I wanted to be outside again and travel the world, practicing what I’d learnt at Hadlow. So I applied for a grower job in one of the most remote and harshest climates on the planet… and here I am!”

He believes the course he studied was a very important factor in securing his current job: “You can’t be a decent grower without an intimate knowledge of the science of how plants and the environment work.”

When asked about his career highlights to date, he says: “Writing my own ISO-related quality documents for fertigation regimes and pest/disease control, implementing them, seeing them work and constantly improving them. Designing my own fertiliser formulation and tweaking it!”

“My advice to anyone seeking a role similar to mine would be ‘try before you buy’ – horticulture is a tough business and not for everyone, but my career has been hugely rewarding.”