Berry grower Clock House Farm has announced the opening of a £10m renewable energy-driven heated soft fruit growing system, designed to produce more fruit outside of the traditional UK growing season.
The scheme will use heat from the River Medway to deliver energy to a 6.5ha production site for raspberry and blackberry crops with a capacity of 150 tonnes and 300 tonnes respectively. An expansion in 2024 to include a further 200 tonnes of strawberries has also been planned by the business.
The company claims it is the “biggest known river source heat pump system in the country and the most significant investment in green energy for soft fruit in the UK”.
River water which has been heated by the sun is extracted and then passed through a heat exchange to remove a couple of degrees of heat from the water. The water is then put back into the river. A second loop transfers this heat to the plant room’s six heat pumps to achieve a temperature of 45 degrees celsius, after which it is circulated to greenhouses.
“As growers, extending the season is imperative to our – and other British growers’ – success by offering the potential for sales to be spread across a longer time frame and therefore ensure less reliance on imported soft fruit,” said Oli Pascall, MD of Clock House Farm.
“Of course, ultimately this also helps to reduce the carbon footprint,” he added.
The heat pump’s total output is 10.6 megawatts, which is equivalent to what is produced by 106 car engines. According to Ofgem, a megawatt hour (the use of one megawatt or 1,000 kilowatts, for a whole hour) would power around 2,000 homes.
The company will continue to explore clean energy solutions, which it says have become even more important in light of the current situation in Ukraine.