A vast environmentally-friendly greenhouse complex will soon be producing vine tomatoes in Suffolk.
Sterling Suffolk has completed the first stage of the £30 million project by building a Dutch-style glasshouse with the dimensions of 11 football pitches in Great Blakenham near Ipswich, according to East Anglian Daily Times.
The first tomatoes are due to be planted in December, with the first harvest set to begin in mid-February 2019.
Tomato vines will be grown using hydroponics rather than traditional soil production, and the greenhouse will be similar to those used in the Netherlands and France, according to the company.
Cliff Matthews, chief executive of Sterling Suffolk, told EADT: “It has been great to start this, seven years ago, and to be here to see it coming to fruition.
“There are some bigger ones in the country of course. This phase one is the size of 11 football pitches.
“It is the most environmentally efficient glasshouse in the UK. The first of its kind here. There are a number in France and Holland.”
Sterling Suffolk is aiming to produce 50,000 vines a week for supermarkets and the restaurant trade, with a focus on high quality production, EADT reported.
The 5.6-hectare glasshouse, which is still waiting for blinds and hydroponics equipment to be fitted, is just the first part of a three-phase project that is set to cost £30m in total over the next three years.
Once complete, the production greenhouses will span 17ha, with an office and packaging facilities also on site.
In a bid to lessen the site’s environmental impact, air circulation systems will be used and water for the hydroponics will be collected from the roof and stored in a reservoir.