Innovative greenhouses which monitor temperature, CO2 emissions and moisture levels to control the growing and ripening process have been installed on a fruit farm near Arbroath, resulting in a productive strawberry harvest until late in December.
Abbey Fruit farm supplies Marks & Spencer’s ‘Top Tier’ range and the company’s managing director, Peter Stirling, said reducing waste was paramount to his business.
“We have already installed biomass systems in our greenhouses, and are in the process of putting in a second phase,” he said.
“We started by using a straw boiler but found this to be too high in emissions so have replaced this with wood chip ones which is more efficient. We also have access to a piece of local woodland locally so we can sustainably source the wood chips.”
The development was supported by Angus Council’s Economic Development Unit. Councillor Ron Sturrock said food and drink was seen as a priority business sector in Angus.
He added: “Innovative ventures such as this are vital to the prosperity of the area, and we are here to give practical help and tangible support to ensure that our local businesses grow and thrive.”
Angus has long been recognised as ideal for soft fruit growing due to a cool climate which produces sweeter fruit.
Mr Stirling said: “Being on the Angus coast is also a benefit as we have high levels of light which reflects off the water. All these factors combine to produce fruit of the highest quality which M&S consider to be ‘perfect’ and are about to be branded accordingly as “Perfect Pick” – an accolade which is unique and we are obviously extremely proud of.”
The James Hutton Institute has assisted the business in developing new varieties of strawberries that are benchmarked for sweetness, taste and texture. The company’s season now extends from March, when the first early-crop fruit is ready, to the end of December.