British strawberries could be on supermarket shelves nine months a year with new vertical cultivation method

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Strawberries grown in Britain could be sold in supermarkets nine months a year thanks to a new, better-for-the-environment vertical cultivation method.

A fruit grower in Arundel, West Sussex, pioneered the technique that uses 50% less water and has a 90% lower carbon footprint despite yielding five times the yield compared to normal production methods.

It is also hoped to secure supplies during the UK’s precarious summer periods, with Direct Produce Supplies (DPS) stacking 1,000 tonnes of strawberries to supply to Tesco.

The method works by stacking strawberry beds vertically under fully controlled conditions and watering the plants using hydroponic food rather than in the soil, which DPS says helps improve the nutritional value of the fruit.

Staff at Wickes Farm in West Sussex, UK, work harvesting strawberries in time for Wimbledon and the summer. (Photo: Tesco / Ben Stevens / Parsons Media / PA Wire)

Managing Director Paul Benyon said: “Vertical farming provides producers with a protected environment that requires much less land, water and energy to produce excellent quality crops.

“We chose the location of our farm near Chichester on the south coast as this area offers the highest natural levels of light and heat in the UK and thus maximizes potential.

“We are still at a relatively early stage of vertical cultivation and in the future we believe that we can make even more progress in the sustainable production of strawberries and that other fruit crops could adapt to the system of the same way.”

Currently, UK strawberries are available to consumers from May through October, having grown by around six weeks 25 years ago. However, adverse weather conditions can often jeopardize production, leaving retailers with a deficit.

Tesco Fruit Technical Manager Sabina Wyant said: “Growing vertical crops is a giant leap for fresh produce growers by helping to reduce their carbon footprint and use less water, while increasing their production. yields.

“For buyers there is also a clear advantage, with consistent fruit quality and availability for up to nine months of the year, regardless of weather conditions. “

“Vertical farming will end this uncertainty and provide perfect growing conditions for an extended nine-month season.”

Additional reporting by the Press Association



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