Dyson Farming is producing out of season sustainable strawberries using its brand new 15-acre glasshouse in Carrington, and has now picked the first strawberries.
The latest addition to Dyson’s circular farming system, the glasshouse supports the advancement of high-tech, sustainable farming in the UK by avoiding importing strawberries at this time of year.
Sir James Dyson explains: “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.”
Powered with renewable electricity and surplus heat from Dyson Farming’s adjacent anaerobic digester, the giant glasshouse is 424metres long, with 832 rows of strawberries and 700,000 strawberry plants which will produce 750 tonnes of strawberries each year for British consumers.
The anaerobic digesters produce gas which drives turbines, producing enough electricity to power the equivalent of 10,000 homes and producing digestate as a by-product, which is applied to nearby fields as an organic fertiliser, and heat is captured and used to warm the glasshouse.
The glasshouse is lengthening the British strawberry season by growing quality strawberries in early spring and late Autumn, when traditionally British strawberries are in very short supply. This will contribute to the UK becoming more self-sufficient in food reducing the air miles associated with imported fruit.
A team of growers has been brought together, headed by Angel Angelov, to oversee the operation.
Angel said: “Growing quality strawberries at this scale, in a sustainable way, out of season, not only requires technological innovation but the expertise and experience of people who care passionately about producing quality strawberries. I am proud to be part of this team.”
The glasshouse will incorporate new technologies as they evolve, such as advanced robotic picking and advanced LED lighting that could increase glasshouse efficiency and lengthen the season further.
A climate control computer system adjusts the temperature in the glasshouse to maintain the optimal growing conditions, and rainwater is harvested from the glasshouse roof, stored in a lagoon and used to irrigate the plants. The hanging gutters, which hold the plants, ‘swing’ from side to side to allow 15% extra crop to be grown in the same area.
The site also has packhouse and cold store facilities, allowing the strawberries to be picked, chilled, packed and delivered fresh as quickly as possible.