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Construction begins on hi-tech £5m facility to store millions of tomatoes and cucumbers each year

East Yorkshire-based hi-tech horticultural specialist CambridgeHOK has started construction of a huge new packhouse in a £5m project which will see a hi-tech facility built able to package and store millions of tomatoes and cucumbers per year.

As part of the project, the specialist business was tasked with designing and building the facility in Ely, Cambridgeshire, including foundations and civils, structural steelwork, external cladding, cold store paneling, and mechanical and electrical systems.

Its client, Fenland Glasshouse Limited, is a company owned by funds managed by Schroders Greencoat LLP.

Over a three-month period, 100 tonnes of steel, including trellis beams up to 16m long, had to be prepared by CambridgeHOK at its factory in Newport before being delivered to the Cambridgeshire site in stages.

That work included 1,136 welded assemblies and the need for steelwork to be sent to specialist galvanizers with a 21m long bath, such as the length of steel used.

It is the largest Venlo-style building ever manufactured at CambridgeHOK's East Yorkshire factory, and the 3,600m2 packhouse is to be constructed ready for the first of the 2023 crop to be processed in March.

Businesses beat off competition from overseas to win the contract.

Fenland is the latest glasshouse project built using funds managed by Schroders Greencoat LLP and is one of the largest ever constructed in the UK, with a footprint of over 22 hectares. It is also one of the most advanced, using LED lighting to accelerate growth while warming the structure using water-source heat pumps.

Louis Bradley, joint managing director of CambridgeHOK, said he was delighted to have been chosen to design and build the facility's packhouse.

"We were, of course, extremely pleased to secure this project from a true leader in energy-efficient glasshouse production and ahead of competition from Dutch builders," he said.

"This site grows tomatoes and cucumbers for UK consumers in high-tech greenhouses using sustainable energy, and the new packhouse will house the latest packing technology, allowing thousands of fresh tomatoes and cucumbers to reach the shelves of British supermarkets each day and throughout the year.

"This project is a great fit for us as it allows all of the disciplines within our company to be involved in contributing to the true turnkey delivery."

Steelwork production was unique, given the challenges brought by size

Production of the steelwork was overseen by CambridgeHOK's factory manager Simon Goff.

He said: "This has been a unique project for us to design and project manage, given the sheer size and weight of some of the steel involved."

"We had to complete the steelwork and transport it for galvanizing in three stages, each time then delivering to the site. We are talking huge pieces of steel, with a roof truss 16 meters long and a building standing nine meters high."

"It has been a great project to oversee personally, and it's now over to our construction team to build over the coming months. After all the hard work in the factory, it will be great to see the structure now begin to take place."

CambridgeHOK has a Certificate of Factory Production Control (FPC), issued by the Steel Construction Certification Scheme, which confirms it is qualified to produce 'load bearing and welded structural steel components up to EXC 3' – in accordance with BS EN 1090-2-2018 and the UK Designated Standard BS EN 1090 - 1:2009+A1:2011.

Each part welded and manufactured is 100% traceable throughout its entire lifecycle, providing quality assurance for clients.

For more information:
Tel: +44(0)1430 449440
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