A large 8 hectare greenhouse tomato project is in the pipeline to be realized in Bogneau, a township in the Charente-Maritime department in southwestern France. The project is initiatied by French agricultural entrepreneur Thomas Caron, who wants to replace Spanish tomato imports with locally grown products. 

In search of public support, a public survey has just begun and will go on for a month. The 8 hectare greenhouse project is slated to be realized at an abandoned orchard. A future expansion towards 15 hectares has been mentioned, as well as 5,000m2 of facility buildings. This €20 million investment could create 50 employment opportunities as of next year. If all goes well the project could begin in the spring. 

However, the project isn’t welcomed by everyone. Jérôme Blauth for example, from the Amis de la Confédération Paysanne Association is afraid that the large operations will threaten local farmers by claiming that “Hydroponic tomatoes have no nutritional value” and that “they have no taste, they are like cardboard tomatoes”. While scientific support for his claims are absent, the opponent said that the hydroponic tomatoes 'are completely different to the tomatoes grown in the soil' produced by the local small scale farmers he represents.

Thomas Caron ensures that they are not competing with local farmers in the region as their production will not be sold in regional markets, but to large retailers. He aims to replace tomatoes from Spain that, according to him, “have no taste”. He promises to offer a selection of tasty varieties that are grown soilless, but with organic fertilizers, hardly any chemical treatments and that they are harvested at the last minute. 

In order to produce tomatoes over 10 months of the year at a temperature of 18 degrees, the greenhouses need to be heated with the help of natural gas from a nearby pipeline. Thanks to cogeneration they can produce electricity and heat at the same time. However, the real strength in the project is the system that will be used for watering- 50-80% of the water needed will be supplied from collected and recirculated rainwater. 

Source: Julien Fleury, France Bleu La Rochelle