Nearly a quarter of the UK's tomatoes will be grown at Thanet Earth following completion of a sixth greenhouse.
The new 7ha facility will be dedicated to growing speciality tomatoes all year round, and has already been planted with four different varieties including the Thanet Earth Piccolo variety. The greenhouse is heated by Combined Heat & Power and fitted with High Pressure Sodium growlights.
While Thanet Earth now accounts for 15 per cent of UK tomato planted area, the business pointed out that its hyper-efficient growing system and 12-month harvest capability mean the percentage of UK tomatoes grown there is approaching 25 per cent. In winter, the 31ha of lit production at the Kent site will represent 75 per cent of the UK capacity of lit tomatoes.
In what it claims is a UK first, Thanet Earth has also installed sodium growlights in the cucumber greenhouse it constructed last year. While the greenhouse produced tomatoes in the 2017 season, it is switching to cucumber production in 2018 with the young plants assisted through the winter by supplementary lighting. It is also the first UK high-wire, light-assisted cucumber crop, according to the company, allowing Thanet Earth to increase yields through higher-density planting that will bring forward the harvest to start as early as January.
Thanet Earth managing director Des Kingsley said: “There’s an enormous uncertainty around the future for imported trade at the moment, and it’s widely acknowledged that the UK has to improve its self-sufficiency in food production. We’re working as hard as we can to add more top-quality home-grown volumes to the market but there’s still a huge gap between the demand for British tomatoes all year round and the available supply volumes.”
The latest phase of the project has created 130 jobs in the care and management of the greenhouse and crop packing, Kingsley added.