Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Tomatoes as far as the eye can see


About 5 years ago the planning committee of Stockton Council gave permission for a Tomato plant to be built. It was to use state of the art technology to recycle water, collect rainwater for use, take waste energy from nearby chemical plants for heating and waste carbon dioxide from them for feeding the plants. Today members of the planning committee went to look at the plant in operation and to see if it was living up to its claims at the time.
Hectare upon Hectare of tomato plants, stretching into the distance, producing crops for 11 months of the year, all carefully tended by a combination of computer controlled heating, lighting, ventilation and feeding with skilled human trimming, harvesting and then packing means that supermarkets are selling tomatoes grown in Billingham for a large part of the year. So about 100 people have jobs, some full time and some just for the summer, the tomatoes don't travel miles across the sea to get here and the flavour is wonderful. We know - we sampled some.
They even have their own hives of bees to pollinate the crops. Sadly at present the bees are imported from a Belgian company but there is apparently an English company starting to produce these little portable hives. At the moment they are considered prohibitively expensive by this company but maybe in the future it wil be British bees also working in the glasshouses, who knows.
For some reason unknown to the staff beautiful ferns grow out of the Rockwool on two rows of cherry tomato plants. No-one understands why it happens in those rows but it doesn't seem to affect the tomatoes so the ferns are left to grow on undisturbed. I did suggest selling them as a sideline - I'm sure they'd be very popular, but it's probably too much hassle to set up such a side production.

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