‘World-first’ tomato greenhouses nearing completion
PUBLISHED: 11:27 09 September 2020 | UPDATED: 11:28 09 September 2020
Giant greenhouses taking shape in Suffolk and over the border in Norfolk are nearing completion.
The vast glasshouses at Farm Place, Bury St Edmunds, and at Crown Point, Norwich, are designed to provide a tenth of the UK’s homegrown tomato crop, along with peppers and cucumbers.
The £120m projects by Bom Group are on track for their testing and commissioning phase to begin this autumn. Just one of the vast buildings is one and half times the size of the O2 arena in London and between them will use more glass than The Shard building in London.
Around 360 permanent jobs will be created at the glasshouses – and up to 460 at peak season.
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The scheme – project managed by Step Associates – is set to be home to the largest heat pump system in the UK.
The greenhouses lie next to Anglian Water’s water treatment facilities, and are designed so the heat from the sewage works will be pumped into energy centres for the greenhouses, providing the ideal growing temperature for growing millions of tomatoes.
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Step Associates director Mark Dykes said creating the huge buildings had been a “long and rewarding journey”.
“The greenhouses, being a world-first in their use of renewable energy, have positioned the UK as leading the way in a low carbon solution to growing sustainably, and will hopefully pave the way for similar projects,” he said.
“The scheme is using the UK’s largest system of heat pumps, which will channel heat from warm water into the greenhouses to help speed growth. This use of natural energy will cut carbon emissions associated with growing the tomato crop by 75%.”
Carbon emissions from an on-site electricity plant will also be captured and used in the greenhouses to help aid the growth of the plants.
The company behind the project is UK clean energy fund Greencoat Capital. It estimates the buildings will produce vegetables with a quarter of the carbon footprint of regular greenhouses.
The two sites - the Norwich site stretches to 16 hectares and Bury St Edmunds site to 13ha – are set to start growing this winter. Plants will grow vertically along guide wires within the 7-metre tall glass structures. Instead of using soil, the plants will be grown hydroponically using nutrient-rich water.
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