Thanet Earth Lettuce aims to boost UK self-sufficiency in leafy salads

Branding for the new business has been unveiled

Branding for the new business has been unveiled

Kent glasshouse grower Thanet Earth is moving into leafy salad production.

The development comes after Thanet Earth this week acquired the Leythorne Nurseries site formerly operated by leafy salad growers Madestein (UK). The deal was concluded through specialist advisory firm FRP for an undisclosed sum. 

The acquisition of the 8.25-acre site, which is located to the south of Chichester in West Sussex, comprises 27,000 sq metres of glasshouses. Chichester is well known for its strong light levels, which over the years has provided the base for a number of the UK’s leading horticultural businesses, majority shareholder Fresca Group pointed out.

The new venture will trade as Thanet Earth Lettuce and is set up to produce lettuce under glass for 12 months of the year in a deep-flow, hydroponic system.

’High-tech growing systems’

Fresca chief executive and Thanet Growers chairman Martyn Fletcher said: “This is an important move by Thanet Earth to explore the opportunity to move into a new category to complement its current catalogue, which comprises speciality tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers.

“This complements the recent investment in our Smart Farm at DGM Growers, in which we are growing leafy vegetables in a vertical system within a greenhouse. It further emphasises Fresca’s commitment to exploring high-tech growing systems which are less capital and energy intensive than the current wave of fully-enclosed vertical farms.

“It aligns seamlessly with our vision to grow more protected crops and underscores our commitment to delivering unparalleled value to our customers, through broadening our salad offering.”

Boosting domestic supply

Fletcher stressed that increasing UK production is both a vital part of its strategy, and good for the industry. “Losing a local grower could mean having to import more produce from abroad, which is not only bad news for the environment, but it also reduces our own food security credentials. That’s why we feel this is a significant opportunity - to keep producing our own food locally and feeding our nation.”

Thanet Earth directors Pleun van Malkenhorst and Arjan de Gier are supporting the on-site operational team based at the site in Chichester in the set-up of the new business. “Our new business, Thanet Earth Lettuce Ltd, is a strategic expansion into lettuce and an obvious addition to our current portfolio of premium-quality, sustainably UK-grown tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers,” Van Malkenhorst said.

“This is an extremely exciting opportunity which further strengthens our position as industry leaders in greenhouse production in the UK.”