The green credentials of the Thanet Earth glasshouse project have received a major boost after a new report found the site to be more environmentally friendly than foreign facilities.

Peppers and cucumbers grown at the Kent site would have lower carbon emissions and a smaller footprint than those grown by alternative methods in Spain or northern Europe, the report by consultants Bidwells Agribusiness found.

Tomatoes grown without artificial lights at Thanet Earth would be more carbon efficient than Mediterranean tomatoes grown under similar conditions, it added. Those grown under lights would also have a similar footprint to British tomatoes grown naturally outdoors thanks to the way energy is used at the site.

Greenhouses at the £85m development are heated using Combined Heat and Power, where surplus electricity is fed back into the National Grid. Heat and carbon dioxide by-products of the power generation process are also re-used in the greenhouses. The use of CHP therefore contributed a negative carbon emission to the site’s overall footprint, Bidwells concluded.

Potential future developments could include LED glasshouse lights, higher yielding varieties and renewable substrate as a growing medium, recommended Bidwells. Transport efficiency could also be improved, it added. 

Thanet Earth now plans to obtain PAS 2050 certification and formalise its water footprinting study.

The report comes as planting of a combined half a million tomato and pepper plants is completed in two Dutch-owned Thanet Earth greenhouses. A third greenhouse will be planted with cucumbers later this month, with the first harvest of all three crops due in March.

Rainbow Growers, Kaaij Redstar and A&A Growers currently use three of the glasshouses. A fourth has been sold, and three more are still to go on the market, confirmed Fresca Group chairman Chris Mack.