BerryWorld partners with Dutch agtech firm Smartkas to offer year-round strawberry supply from new facility in Essex

BerryWorld has partnered with Dutch smart farm specialist Smartkas to produce Eve’s Delight strawberries in what is thought to be the largest vertical farm in the UK.

With over 27,000 sq m of growing space and 12 layers, the same height as a four-storey building, the Smartkas facility in Harlow, Essex claims to be the UK’s largest and highest-yielding vertical farm.

Production is now underway following the facility’s construction, as announced by FPJ in June 2022.

BerryWorld’s partnership with Smartkas – a Dutch agtech business that designs, builds, owns and operates smart farms – is aimed at ensuring consistent year-round supply of British strawberries.

The facility will be used exclusively for growing Eve’s Delight strawberries, a variety from the Edward Vinson breeding programme.

Over the last 12 months, BerryWorld varieties have been trialed at the Smartkas R&D site in the Netherlands to ensure consistent quality can be achieved in Essex.

In addition, the vertical farm in Harlow uses renewable energy sources and is only a short distance from retailers’ distribution centres, meaning a lower carbon footprint.

“Increasing consumer demand for locally grown strawberries means producing in the UK year round has never been more important,” said Dr David Meszaros, CEO and founder of Smartkas.

“Built over 12 layers and with the largest growing capacity in the UK, our vertical smart farm has the ability to support retailers throughout the year.”

Mark Kirby, chief commercial officer at Smartkas, added: “Our partnership with BerryWorld marks a turning point in the UK’s food supply chain and the way the country looks to secure locally grown year-round produce.

“Our Harlow farm uses artificial intelligence to control all aspects of the growing cycle including light, water and CO2 to maximise the plants’ growing potential.

“Being indoors protects the plants from adverse weather conditions and allows us to create an optimal growing environment locally, resulting in a strawberry that not only tastes good but also makes environmental and economic sense.” 

In May 2022, Smartkas also announced a joint venture agreement with Brazil’s Minas Gerais municipality to build and operate smart greenhouses on 65 hectares of land.