High-Tech Glasshouse Growing U.K. Tomatoes Calls Brexit a ‘Dream’
(Bloomberg) -- Brexit might be coming at the right time for one U.K. tomato grower using a new high-tech facility that at times looks more like the inside of a nightclub than a traditional glasshouse.
Grown using pink LED lights, Sterling Suffolk is starting to harvest tomatoes at the building in southeast England. The crops will compete against imports that make up the bulk of what Britons buy, and come as concerns remain that a no-deal Brexit could lead to tariffs or port holdups, hurting incoming supplies.
“For us, Brexit is a dream,” said David Scrivens, a director of Sterling Suffolk, which started work on the project six years ago and began building in April. “Because we’re competing against imported tomatoes, it can only make ours more valuable.”
The tomatoes at the facility near Ipswich are grown in fiber extracted from coconuts rather than in soil, which helps air and water to reach roots and is more environmentally friendly than rockwool. To speed up photosynthesis, carbon dioxide is pumped into the building and the lights come on at night, with a pinkish hue because that requires less power.
There’s also a special ventilation system to control temperatures in winter and summer, and boxes of bees are kept inside to help pollinate the plants that are almost touching the roof. The company isn’t the first in the U.K. to use lights, carbon and ventilation to help crops, but the combination of all of them is rare.
Sterling Suffolk expects to produce a truck-load per day by summer, with peak daily output reaching 11 tons, and is preparing to start selling to supermarkets. U.K. farmers produce no more than half of the tomatoes sold in the country in summer, and just a fifth throughout the whole year, according to the British Tomato Grower’s Association.
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