Huge £120m tomato greenhouses will make East Anglia a beacon for low-carbon farming
PUBLISHED: 09:32 15 April 2020 | UPDATED: 13:22 15 April 2020
Two vast tomato greenhouses being built in Norfolk and Suffolk will become a “bankable template” for another 41 sites across the country – putting East Anglia at the forefront of a low-carbon farming revolution.
That was the claim from the company behind the two “world-first”, wastewater-heated greenhouses under construction outside Norwich and Bury St Edmunds as the firm unveiled plans for a nationwide roll-out which it says will create more than 8,000 new jobs and invest £2.67bn into regional economies.
Low Carbon Farming is developing the massive greenhouses on the Colman family’s Crown Point Estate at Kirby Bedon, and at Ingham in Suffolk – each covering an area larger than the O2 arena –which will grow tomatoes in a hydroponic system using waste heat from Anglian Water treatment facilities.
The combined £120m investment is expected to create 360 new “green economy” jobs in East Anglia, rising to 480 in high season, while increasing British tomato production by 12pc and reducing associated carbon emissions by 75pc, said the company.
But, as that would still leave the majority of the UK’s tomatoes being imported, Low Carbon Farming has identified potential sites for a further 41 giant, low-carbon greenhouses capable of making the nation self-sufficient in tomatoes and cucumbers, while removing the food miles associated with importing such produce.
Andy Allen, a director at Low Carbon Farming, said the plan represents a “significant advance for national food resilience” at a time when food chains are being pushed to the limits by the coronavirus pandemic
“Our East Anglian projects provide British farming with a bankable template for the nationwide roll-out of transformative, renewable heat solutions,” he said. “Having secured the financing and proven the business model, and with the case for secure and sustainable British produce having been thrown into such sharp focus, it’s time to plan for the next stage.
“Policy decisions made the innovation behind our first projects possible – specifically, the entirely logical extension of the Tariff Guarantee until the end of the Renewable Heat Incentive in 2021. We now look to government for a clear and far-sighted decision to extend revenue support for renewable heating in British farming far beyond 2021.”
READ MORE: Colman family’s pride as construction work begins on vast tomato greenhouse
Through Low Carbon Farming’s tenancy agreements with third-party growers, the Norfolk and Suffolk greenhouses will supply low-carbon British tomatoes to retailers including Subway and Sainsburys.
They will also help Anglian Water to meet environmental challenges. Closed loop heat pumps will be used to transfer the heat from nearby water recycling centres to the greenhouses to accelerate the growth of the plants, and capture the majority of the carbon – with the added effect of cooling treated water outflow before it is returned to the environment.
David Riley, head of carbon neutrality at Anglian Water: “These projects are helping us fulfil our environmental obligations and represent the kind of innovative approach to sustainability we are embracing right across our business in our own challenge to become zero carbon by 2030. Finding alternative sustainable uses for land close to water recycling centres which also make use of excess energy makes sense for UK businesses.”
The two East Anglian projects were acquired in September by a fund managed by Greencoat Capital, the UK’s largest investor in renewable energy. James Samworth, a partner at Greencoat Capital, said: “Renewable heat is a new frontier for UK climate action and every sector will need to play its part.
“Our projects have demonstrated that it’s now perfectly possible to strip the carbon out of British growing and, with the appropriate policy environment in place, we look forward to considering the role we can play in financing a wider roll-out of this solution.”
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