Zoo's botanical boss leaves to take up educational role
Paignton Zoo's award-winning "head gardener" is leaving to take up a new post in education.
Kevin Frediani, the zoo's curator of plants and gardens, is moving on after five years to become Head of Academy: Horticulture, Arboriculture and Floristry at Bicton College. He will also be project lead on the college's new campus at Dartington, to be called Bicton@Dartington.
He said: "I now have the chance to help train the next generation of future farmers.
"The Bicton offer is an opportunity of a lifetime. I always knew I would eventually go into education.
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"We face climate change, a growing human population, the unsustainable harvesting of our natural resources, food insecurity – actions must speak louder than words."
While Kevin, who grew up in Ashburton, has been at the zoo it has won an RHS Britain in Bloom Judges' award, the Institute of Horticulture's Nora Stucken Award, a Devon County Show gold and a Chelsea Flower Show gold, plus accolades from the environmental, business, tourism and zoo worlds.
"Growing plants in a zoo full of animals is always a challenge but I think I have helped to realise the potential of plants in what was the world's first combined zoo and botanic garden," said Kevin, who has also worked for the Queen at Windsor Great Park.
His biggest achievement was the installation of a pioneering grow-your-own system at the zoo which meant it could grow its own vegetables and herbs to feed its animals, saving thousands of pounds. "We have demonstrated scientifically that you can produce more food with less energy by growing vertically," he said.
"VertiCrop has now done its job. The working prototype - a world first – has helped to feed zoo animals, but may lead one day to systems that will feed a growing human population.
"The ideas it represents – vertical growing, urban farming, sustainable food production – are big news in universities and the food industry; the zoo has conducted trials for some leading names." Thanks to Kevin, the zoo has a powerful new plant record database, new plant labels, a garden guidebook and runs courses on plant science and tree biology. His team has also rediscovered and cultivated plants formerly bred by the zoo's founder, Herbert Whitley.
His remit went far beyond gardening. Kevin has also helped prepare the zoo for climate change and put environmental management at the heart of the park. He has worked with important species threatened with extinction, including cycads (palm or fern-like plants found in the tropics and subtropics that have changed little since the Jurassic) and the Plant Heritage National collection of Buddlejas.