Huge tomato greenhouse will become a beacon for low-carbon farming
PUBLISHED: 19:07 15 April 2020 | UPDATED: 19:26 15 April 2020
A vast tomato greenhouse being built outside Norwich will become a “bankable template” for another 41 sites across the country – putting Norfolk at the forefront of a low-carbon farming revolution.
That was the claim from the company behind the “world-first” wastewater-heated greenhouse under construction at the Colman family’s Crown Point Estate at Kirby Bedon, as plans were unveiled for a nationwide roll-out which the developers say will create more than 8,000 new jobs and invest £2.67bn into regional economies.
The massive greenhouse – covering an area larger than the O2 arena – is one of two currently being developed by Low Carbon Farming to grow tomatoes in hydroponic systems using waste heat from Anglian Water treatment facilities. The other will be outside Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk.
The combined £120m investment is expected to create 360 new “green economy” jobs in East Anglia, rising to 480 in high season, while increasing British tomato production by 12pc and reducing associated carbon emissions by 75pc, said the company.
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But, as that would still leave the majority of the UK’s tomatoes being imported, Low Carbon Farming has identified potential sites for a further 41 giant, low-carbon greenhouses capable of making the nation self-sufficient in tomatoes and cucumbers, while removing the food miles associated with importing such produce.
Andy Allen, a director at Low Carbon Farming, said the plan represents a “significant advance for national food resilience” at a time when food chains are being pushed to the limits by the coronavirus pandemic
“Our East Anglian projects provide British farming with a bankable template for the nationwide roll-out of transformative, renewable heat solutions,” he said. “Having secured the financing and proven the business model, and with the case for secure and sustainable British produce having been thrown into such sharp focus, it’s time to plan for the next stage.
READ MORE: Colman family’s pride as construction work begins on vast tomato greenhouse
“Policy decisions made the innovation behind our first projects possible – specifically, the entirely logical extension of the Tariff Guarantee until the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive in 2021. We now look to government for a clear and far-sighted decision to extend revenue support for renewable heating in British farming far beyond 2021.”
The greenhouses will also help Anglian Water to meet environmental challenges. Closed loop heat pumps will be used to transfer the heat from nearby water recycling centres to the greenhouses to accelerate the growth of the plants, and capture the majority of the carbon – with the added effect of cooling treated water outflow before it is returned to the environment.
David Riley, head of carbon neutrality at Anglian Water: “These projects are helping us fulfil our environmental obligations and represent the kind of innovative approach to sustainability we are embracing right across our business in our own challenge to become zero carbon by 2030. Finding alternative sustainable uses for land close to water recycling centres which also make use of excess energy makes sense for UK businesses.”
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