15 Apr 2022

Year-round strawberries thanks to British vertical farms


Berry Gardens is joining forces with vertical farming giant Jones Food Company to experiment with vertical strawberry production.

The pilot project will be carried out at Jones Food Company's new research and development facility in Bristol and, if successful, would extend Berry Gardens' British strawberry season to 12 months.

Despite recent findings, the UK strawberry season generally runs from March to November, but Berry Gardens said customers have expressed significant interest in having vertically grown strawberries on the shelves, with the first harvest likely in the winter of 2023.

Jones Food Company is currently building one of the largest vertical farms in the world, on a site near Lydney in Gloucestershire.

Jones Food Company vertical farm
Jones Food Company vertical farm

The company will seek to grow Berry Gardens premium strawberry varieties hydroponically, which means that the berries will grow in water, without soil, with plants stacked on top of each other in a series of tiers. Growing fruit in this way brings significant sustainability benefits, as it eliminates the need for pesticides, uses 95% less water and reduces 'food miles' (by air and road).

Berry Gardens managing director Nick Allen said: "Ensuring a quality supply for our customers and enabling consumers to have delicious, fresh, healthy British strawberries on the shelves all year round are key priorities for us. The environmental impact is obviously also very attractive."

"Like most of the industry, we are actively looking for ways to become more sustainable throughout our business and when technology offers realistic solutions, it is our duty to energetically pursue them.

"What James and his team are already doing with herbs and leafy salads has demonstrated the technology and the benefits that scale can bring, as their product is already selling in thousands of UK shops every week."

JFC founder James Lloyd-Jones added: "Our food supply chain is under significant stress - and the rising costs of energy, fertiliser and our food are all regular and consistent stories - so vertical farming is undoubtedly a vital part of the UK's agricultural future.

"British farming has traditionally been limited by seasonality, but this partnership looks to take us to a point where British consumers can buy fresh home-grown strawberries from major retailers all winter and all year round. We know the demand is there, and we are working hard to make it a reality."

Fruitnet is part of the NCX Media network.

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