Oasthouse Ventures (OHV) Limited has unveiled plans to develop a 40-hectare greenhouse project named 'Rivenhall Greenhouse' on previously quarried land to the east of Braintree, Essex. OHV is partnering with Wren Renewables as the landlord and the Indaver Integrated Waste Management Facility, which is currently under construction nearby. "The collaboration will harness waste heat, CO2, and on-site electricity generation to create an optimal environment for growing fresh produce, including tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers", the initiators reveal.
Oasthouse Ventures is known for the Low Carbon Farming project in Bury St Edmunds and Norwich, which extracts heat from the sewage at local treatment works, transferring it to heat pumps at their sites.
According to EssexLive, the project also aims to add a vertical farm using the existing Rivenhall RAF hanger facility that will allow the company to produce an additional 375 tonnes of leafy greens.
The Rivenhall Greenhouse project's primary objective is to locally produce a significant portion of the UK's fresh tomatoes, reducing the country's reliance on tomato imports. This initiative is expected to enhance food security and create a more sustainable source of fresh produce.
"The Rivenhall Greenhouse will provide 420 full-time jobs and 80 part-time jobs, along with injecting circa £300 million into the Braintree economy from full-time salaries in the first 20 years of operation. With this, the construction phase will inject circa £4.14 million into the local hospitality sector."
Later this month, a public hearing will reveal more of the plans. So far, it's clear that once operational, Rivenhall Greenhouse will have the capacity to produce approximately 28,000 tonnes of tomatoes on the vine annually. "This output equates to roughly 7.1% of the UK's tomato imports. The UK consumes around 500,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year, with the majority, approximately 400,000 tonnes, being imported."
Addressing Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
According to the plans, Rivenhall Greenhouse's local tomato production will help mitigate supply chain vulnerabilities. "Tomato imports from Southern Spain and Morocco are increasingly threatened by climate change-induced water scarcity and temperature extremes. Additionally, the Netherlands, a significant supplier of tomatoes to the UK, relies heavily on natural gas for greenhouse operations, a concern in an era focused on sustainability and reduced carbon emissions."
The greenhouse is to be equipped with grow lights. "This will allow OHV to plant crops in August to provide retailers with winter produce. Greenhouses with grow lights will be fitted with blackout blinds, which are proven to mitigate 99% of light egress", the team shares. The growing of fresh produce within the greenhouses is undertaken in a closed-loop hydroponic system with all water run-off captured, cleaned, and re-used.
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