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The first TOMATO plants are now being grown inside the biggest semi-closed GLASSHOUSE in the UK - which is the size of 11 football pitches.

A quarter of a MILLION tomato plants have just been placed inside the £15 MILLION glasshouse, which offers the most technologically advanced farming of its kind in the country. The huge state-of-the-art glasshouse at the Blakenham Nursery site at Bramford near Ipswich in Suffolk has been specially designed to use less gas energy and is set to produce 130 MILLION tomatoes a year.

The eight-week-old tomato plants have been transported from Holland and will each produce 605 tomatoes a year, with the first crop expected to be harvested next February. The tomato crop will be pollinated by bumble bees and it is watered by roof water which is captured and flows into a 61,000,000 litre purpose-built reservoir. The water is then sterilised using UV light, and fully recirculated via the irrigation system.

A special carbon dioxide enriched air filter system and red LED lights will help the plants grow at an optimum rate and they should reach up to 15 metres high. Water for the heating system, comprising of 65,000m of heating pipes and a 2,500,000 litre tank of hot water feeding it, is heated by two very large 6,000kW boilers. The farming system uses hydroponics, which is a method of growing plants without soil using mineral nutrient solutions as a water solvent.

Richard Lewis, operations director at Sterling Suffolk, the firm behind the project, said: “The whole point of the glasshouse was two things. First to be as ecological as possible, to have as low a carbon-footprint as we could possibly have. Equally we need to be as high-tech as possible.”

Amberside Group, based in Hertfordshire, helped to raise £15 million for the project all from private individuals including many of the locals. When fully developed, the glasshouse will help bring more than 150 new, local jobs to the area and provide around 1,566 tonnes of locally-grown tomatoes for the UK market every year.

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The Daily Telegraph  The Times