A Norfolk fruit farm is making the earliest-ever start to its strawberry harvest - after investing £1.5m in a sustainable heating system. Place UK, based at Tunstead, near North Walsham, is heating a 2.2-hectare growing structure with a new ground source heat pump, which uses underground water pipes to harness natural heat from the earth. As a result, the firm's first strawberries of the year will be ready more than two weeks earlier than usual.
The early record start will help the firm in its bid to extend the growing season and reduce the UK's reliance on imported fruits and berries during the colder months.
Managing director Pieter van Egmond: "We picked two punnets of strawberries on Tuesday, and we are on the verge of the first commercial harvest next week, which would be a record for us.”
"It has been made possible by investing in a ground source heat pump. The conception of it started before the cost crisis, as we were looking for a more sustainable way of heating rather than going for the traditional gas option. But it definitely resonates more now, given the high costs of energy.“