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Retractable roofs to protect crops

UK strawberry farm cashes in on £5m greenhouse investment

One of the UK’s biggest strawberry producers is cashing in on a £5 million investment to deliver top Kent fruit to leading supermarkets.

Langley-based Charlton Farms, one of the county's largest family-owned soft and top fruit producers, provides stores like Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer with their locally grown fruit. It is now reaping the benefits of a £5m investment on 12 ha of fully retractable greenhouses, developed by Canadian firm Cravo, to protect its crops.

Maidstone-based planning firm DHA secured planning permission for the retractable greenhouses, as well as storage buildings, water storage tanks, drainage system and a 24,980m3 reservoir on land at Ulcombe, near Maidstone.

Despite the local parish council opposing the scheme on the grounds of landscape impact and the accumulative effect of the new Cravo greenhouses and other nearby polytunnels on the Greensand Ridge, the application secured the officer’s recommendation for approval and Maidstone Borough Council granted permission.

According to¸ the Cravo system is used extensively around the world in warm and hot climates as the retractable roofs allow fruit and vegetables to be produced during times of the year when it is difficult to grow. After a small-scale trial, Charlton Farms saw the opportunity to use the system to help extend their growing season and at the same time produce greater volumes of high-quality berries.

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