Thanet Earth has kicked off production at a new £17m greenhouse - and passed the halfway mark in terms of its planned seven greenhouses.

Covering eight hectares at the site in Kent, the building is dedicated to production of speciality tomatoes, initially focusing on six varieties being supplied into the mults. It joins the site’s three existing glasshouses, which grow tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

The new greenhouse features a Discovery Zone - a first for the development - which will provide a development kitchen, education and meeting space to host retail customers, schools and colleges. “This is one way in which the company is further demonstrating its commitment to helping connect consumers with their food,” Thanet Earth said.

The new facility utilises natural growing techniques including bees for pollination and predator insects to control pests. Grow lights will also be installed, allowing it to grow crops inside all year.

The equipment and system were the envy of every commercial grower in the country, said greenhouse manager Gert van Straalen. “We’ve taken everything we’ve learnt from our previous experience and we’ve made even further improvements.”

There were currently no dates for the construction of Thanet’s remaining three planned greenhouses, but the company remained “committed to expanding the site to reach its planned capacity,” added Ian Craig, MD of Thanet Earth Marketing and deputy CEO of the project’s co-owner Fresca Group.