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Almost exactly a year on from CambridgeHOK and Havecon beginning building work the very first strawberries have been picked at a huge new hi-tech glasshouse in Lincolnshire.
The two businesses – now each part of the Atrium Agri, a global consortium of horticultural specialist companies who lead in their field of experience - first became involved in the concept planning three years ago to turn this vision into a reality.
Powered with renewable electricity and heat from an adjacent anaerobic digester, the new Dyson Farming glasshouse covers six-hectares.
Ramon Bol, Sales Manager with Havecon explains: “The Dyson greenhouse is 424metres long with 832 rows of strawberries, 700,000 strawberry plants and will eventually produce 750 tonnes of strawberries each year for British consumers”.
“Having started the glasshouse build at the start of last March, our workers had to isolate in their hotel close to the site throughout the build due to restrictions related to Covid-19. Luckily this did not affect the work and planning very much. Therefore we were able to deliver nicely on time”.
CambridgeHOK oversaw and managed the entire project, from design to construction and handover, delivering a glasshouse which includes 62,700 m2 of glass, 266 tons of steel, 140 tons of aluminium, 1,800 galvanised steel posts, 282,000 aluminium roof glazing bars and 3,247 ventilation windows.
Patrick Harte, Joint Managing Director of CambridgeHOK, said: “Having started work on an empty six hectare site in March 2020 it was a real achievement – and certainly great testament to skills of our team also those of our long-term glasshouse partners Havecon - to complete this project on time as we did in December.
“That allowed the first crops to be harvested and we are now seeing the first ripe strawberries being picked and ready to be distributed to British supermarkets. To see British strawberries, produced and grown in the very best conditions, being picked by the Dyson Farming team right at the start of Spring, is really rewarding.
“This facility will extend the strawberry growing season, which usually lasted a matter of weeks, to around nine months. It means British-grown strawberries will be in supermarkets from early spring to late Autumn, when they are traditionally in very short supply.”
“It is a significant step forward for fresh British produce and greater sustainability.”
Glasshouse includes energy-saving and self-sufficient systems
The new glasshouse boasts LED lighting systems in the glasshouse will provide early production using Philips LED flowering lamps which are being used to extend day length and so maximise early flower growth and fruit.
Self-sufficient water systems from rain-water are used for harvesting across the site in irrigation systems, whilst heat is to be generated from an onsite anaerobic digester biogas plant, where maize and rye silage is converted into energy, stored and used as and when required in glasshouse enabling major energy savings.
Methane gas, which is already created by the anaerobic digestion process, is being used to create electricity to power the glasshouse through a specially built Combined Heat & Power (CHP) system.
Last month a name changed was announced, from Beeswax Dyson Farming to Dyson Farming, in a move the business said reflects ‘the growing symbiotic relationship between the Dyson technology business and the farms.’
On the company’s website, Sir James Dyson said: “Sustainable food production, food security and our environment are vital to the nation’s health and the nation’s economy; there is a real opportunity for agriculture to drive a revolution in technology and vice versa.
“Dyson Farming is developing new approaches to efficient, high-technology agriculture, which we hope will lead to a commercially sustainable future.”
PICTURE: Ben Wills, Head of Property at Dyson Farming, with one of the first strawberries picked at the new facility