Glasshouse design and build expertise helps pioneer strawberry growing system in new multi-million pound facility

The design and build expertise of the team at CambridgeHOK has helped one of the UK’s leading fruit suppliers establish a new state-of-the art glasshouse facility in which a unique, strawberry growing system is being pioneered.

The facility has been developed for grower Berry Farming in Arundel, West Sussex, with the strawberries distributed to Tesco supermarkets by dps Limited.

It has seen CambridgeHOK demonstrate its industry-leading ability to design and build the bespoke, 5.2 hectares site.

Although exact details of the new tiered growing system it uses are a closely guarded secret, Director Ross Hibbs says it has resulted Berry Farming being able to produce a much higher amount of strawberries per square metre than is normally found across the industry.

“To be approached by a customer who had a new growing system and was in need of a bespoke glasshouse designing and building to overcome some of the challenges associated with growing strawberries in a different way was exciting for us all at CambridgeHOK,” said Mr Hibbs.

“One of the key aspects for us was to ensure that the light coming into the glasshouse was able to travel as far as possible and reach all the plants on the tiered system, and that it was evenly distributed.”

Project taken from concept to completion in eight months

Having taken the order to design and build the facility, it was completed and operational within eight months, with the first crop of strawberries planted. The glasshouse is split into six zones, each with their own climates.

Mr Hibbs added: “There were a number of challenges for our team in terms of ensuring the facility distributed light effectively to all fruit growing areas, and this was achieved in the use of specialist glazing.

“We also had to install a innovative irrigation, filtration and sterilisation system which allows rainwater to be harvested and also collected from boreholes and then be flushed through the entire system and reused.

“This was an important element of the build as, given the close proximity to the sea, there was a need to remove salt from water which is collected and brought into the system.

“Also, due to the nature of the growing method used, a much higher volume of water was required due to increased periods of watering required, so therefore it was essential that the site was able to recycle water to ensure it can be reused.

“The client is also using different recipes for feeding the plants which ensures the size and flavour of the strawberries is as good as it possibly can be.”

As part of the project, CambridgeHOK’s own specialist construction division completed all building civils on the greenfield site, including access roads, laydown areas, drainage and foundations for the site heat storage tank.

A gas boiler, running off Liquid Natural Gas due to the site’s location too far away from current supply lines, was built and sited, generating heat which is stored in the day and used at night, and to redistribute vaporised liquid Co2 back into the glasshouse to aid the growing process.

The team from CambridgeHOK are now providing support to Berry Farming in maintaining the production facility, continually developing systems to ensure maximum efficiency.

David Moore, Director of Berry Farming, said: “We selected CambridgeHOK to develop this facility in partnership with us as we were aware of their reputation as leaders in the industry and for being innovative pioneers themselves when it comes to indoor growing facilities, processes and technologies.

“It has very much been a partnership from day one, and we have been pleased with their input, expertise and support.

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