Two giant glasshouses are about to enter the testing and commissioning phase – one based at Crown Point Estate, near Norwich, Norfolk, the other at Place Farm, Ingham near Bury-St-Edmunds, Suffolk.
The £120m development claims to be a “world first” in terms of carbon efficiency and renewable energy use, and will ultimately grow more than 10% of the nation’s tomato crop, as well as peppers and cucumbers, once production starts this winter.
The 28ha facilities are owned by Low Carbon Farming, a consortium funded by Greencoat Capital (one of the UK’s largest green energy funds), and will be rented out to commercial growers.
Construction began in October 2019 and, together, the greenhouses have used more glass than the Shard in London. Just one of them is one-and-a-half times the size of the O2 Arena.
Construction at Crown Point
They are also be home to the largest heat pump system project in the UK, having been built next to Anglian Water water-treatment facilities.
The heat from the sewage works is pumped into energy centres serving the two greenhouses, providing the ideal temperature for the plants to help speed growth.
“This use of natural energy will cut carbon emissions associated with growing the tomato crop by 75%,” said Mark Dykes, director of project managers Step Associates.
The carbon emissions from an on-site electricity plant will also be funnelled into the greenhouses for the plants to absorb and aid their growth.
Place Farm construction
The greenhouses, which are set to start growing this winter, are 7m tall glass structures and will allow crops to grow vertically along guide wires.
They will be grown hydroponically from nutrient-rich water solutions instead of using soil.
As well as providing the UK with home-grown tomatoes, the project will also create up to 360 permanent jobs in the area, and up to 460 at peak season.