New packhouse built and ready to automatically sort millions of tomatoes and cucumbers each week

CambridgeHOK have completed the build of an impressive £5m food packhouse in which millions of cucumbers and tomatoes will be automatically weighed, sorted, quality checked and stored ready for delivery to supermarkets.

The project, for Fenland Glasshouse Limited, a company owned by funds managed by Schroders Greencoat LLP, was completed on time in just under a year.

We were approached early last year to discuss, plan and design the project with groundworks and civils beginning on the site in Ely, Cambridgeshire, in July 2022.

The 3,500 sq metre facility has now been handed over to the client after some final additional requests were completed, with the site now fully operational and handling more than a million cucumbers and 600,000 packets of tomatoes a week.

The process within the packhouse is almost entirely automated once cucumbers and tomatoes have been picked from the adjacent glasshouse, which is one of the largest ever constructed in the UK with a footprint of over 22 hectares.

They are collected and graded into sizes, quality checked, wrapped and boxed, ready to be collected and delivered to several large UK supermarkets the next day.

Zoned areas created at ideal temperatures

“This has been an exceptional project to be involved in and we were thrilled to be chosen to design and build this facility at CambridgeHOK, especially given the advanced technologies and levels of automation involved within the packhouse,” said project manager Elliot Wrightson.

“The processes inside meant that the packhouse had to be built to a size which ensured it had the capacity required, given the huge level of daily fruit production in the glasshouse, and it also had to be designed and built in a Venlo style, as it connects directly to the glasshouse.

“Considerations also had to be made in the design for the high levels of automation within the packhouse, and for there to be zoned areas with differing temperatures in the packing hall, the tomato zone and the cucumber zone.”

CambridgeHOK completed works including preparing more than 100 tonnes of steelwork at its factory in Newport, East Yorkshire, including trellis beams up to 16m long. On site it completed foundations and civils, the build, external cladding, cold store panelling and the mechanical and electrical systems.

The 30-strong CambridgeHOK site team used 40mm cladding on the exterior of the building and 100mm cold store panelling on the interior and ceilings. HVAC, electrical and lighting systems and climate controls were also installed, as were internal partitions and access and loading doors, with support also provided to coordinate the final internal fit-out.

Full turnkey project

Louis Bradley, joint managing director of CambridgeHOK, said: “This project has demonstrated the many skills across our business as we have provided a full turnkey service from planning and design to build, environmental controls and support through commissioning and handover

“The entire site, from the huge glasshouse to this new packhouse facility, is so impressive, and demonstrates just how the UK market can produce the very best freshly grown tomatoes and cucumbers for supermarkets, rather than them being imported from overseas.”

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