The UK’s first fully automated glasshouse herb growing facility has opened in West Sussex. This £3m investment by the Langmead Group provides year-round large-scale herb farming for the UK supermarkets at a rate of 5 million pots a year.
The unique automatic potting, sowing and growing system can run 24 hours a day and requires minimum human input. The 1.2-hectare site grows potted basil, parsley, mint, thyme and chives for retailers, as well as an organic range for Abel & Cole.
Ian Summerfield, CEO at Langmeads said “This is a very exciting development for us. Our customers are getting five-star reviews for taste and quality from their customers – as can be seen on the Abel & Cole website. We have embraced the innovation, technology and investment required to create cutting-edge environmental and stock management for our customers.”
The glasshouse is a model of radical thinking and sustainability:
- Glasshouses are inherently energy hungry so the site is heated by a fully sustainable biomass fuel system.
- The glasshouse uses zero tap water. Water is sourced from Langmead’s reservoir and 100% recycled through UV filtration.
- The 550m2 germination room allows optimal growth and crop uniformity.
- It uses the latest technology, including growing benches sown and moved robotically
- Organic herbs can be grown in significant volume in the same footprint as regular herbs using a peat free substrate to have a positive environmental impact and reduce the carbon footprint
Langmeads are also carrying out market-leading research at the site, with trials of herb varieties and seed crops and a major trial is underway, in conjunction with the University of Nottingham, on lighting technology to provide the conditions for optimal growth and disease prevention.
Langmeads identified a market opportunity for potted herbs after establishing its reputation with herb packing at its headquarters in Bosham, West Sussex, and its Scotherbs brand in Dundee.