Tue, 16 May 2023 | ADMINISTRATION
Administrators are seeking buyers for a Chichester-based hydroponic salad growing business after a pair of companies fell into administration. FRP Advisory’s Philip Armstrong and Steve Baluchi were appointed as joint administrators of Fresh Willow Ltd and Madestein (UK) Ltd on April 11.
The companies specialise in glasshouse-grown lettuce and herbs, utilising advanced hydroponic growing processes. Their clients include retailers, wholesalers and food service companies and they are the sole supplier of curly leaf lettuce to several major UK supermarket chains.
The firms have over 40 years’ growing experience, during which time they have established a strong market reputation and solid customer book. As the companies sought to grow further, they invested significant capital into a proposal for a new glasshouse development on a greenfield site.
However, this was ultimately unsuccessful and the investment, combined with labour issues and rising energy costs, meant the companies could not meet their financial obligations and they were forced to enter administration.
The administrators will continue to trade the businesses to ensure supply continuity, while assessing the options available, which include a potential sale as a going concern. The administrators have instructed asset advisory specialist SIA Group and property agent Savills to jointly handle the sale.
In accounts to the year ending March 31 2021, Fresh Willow Limited reported £4.6 million in fixed assets, £1.8 million in current assets and net assets of £240,289. For the same period, Madestein (UK) Limited reported slightly over £1 million in fixed assets, £1.1 million in current assets and net current liabilities of £2.29 million.
The businesses are headquartered on a freehold site on the outskirts of Chichester. The site features 26,829 square metres of glasshouses, as well as adjoining storage, packing and office space and a range of plant and machinery.
Commenting on the process, joint administrator Steve Baluchi said: “Madestein is a well-established business with an excellent customer book and a deservedly strong reputation in the market.”
"Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of the management team, it has not been able to navigate through the challenges facing the food production sector at this time. Our focus is now on continuing to operate the businesses to fulfil customer orders while we seek to identify new owners for the property and business.”
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