Image source: EDP website/Sterling Suffolk Ltd

Sterling Suffolk Ltd have rapidly constructed their mega-greenhouse structure for rapid growing tomatoes. To grow crops quickly they will use hydroponic growing technology. The mega-greenhouse is the size of 11 football pitches, and is based near Ipswich on old farmland. The first tomatoes are expected to be picked in early 2019.

Who are Sterling Suffolk Ltd?

Sterling Suffolk are the developers behind the project, which has been running for several year now. The developers say that the giant greenhouse will be the most environmentally efficient glasshouse in the UK! The greenhouse will be used to produce salad vegetables, but primarily vine tomatoes. They aim to produce 50,000 vines a week of top-quality tomatoes. This would equate to 10% of the fruit bought in the UK, accounting for 7,000 tonnes of tomatoes.
It is hope that biomass boilers will be used to heat the facility. Water will be collected from the roof structure and stored in a reservoir. The vines will be grown using hydroponics, to reduce water consumption in growing the tomatoes.

Hydroponics is a way of growing plants without the use of any soil. Plants are grown in a water based nutrient rich solution, and other inert materials are used instead of soil to support the growing root structure of any plant or crop. It is reported that growing plants with hydroponics uses 20 times less water, and also uses 20% less space. This improves crop yields, and is far more water efficient. Furthermore, plants grow more quickly, reportedly up to 50% faster than traditional crop growing methods.

Sterling Suffolk say this is only phase 1 of the project and hope to expand. The site will employ up to 50 people initially, more as it grows. Despite the size of this project, so far it is not the biggest glasshouse in the region, as British Sugar has an 18 hectare glasshouse.



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