Tomatoes of the Enza variety “Sunstream” are being harvested mid winter at North Yorkshire’s Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC).
The juicy red midi plum fruit have come from a new research facility that is testing the potential of energy efficient LED lights to allow crops to be UK grown rather than travelling thousands of food miles.
The freshly picked fruit have the ‘fresh from the greenhouse’ aroma only really found with homegrown tomatoes, and will be distributed across Yorkshire by specialist supplier, Delifresh who will sell the Yorkshire tomatoes to catering establishments including the Star at Sancton and the Pipe and Glass at South Dalton, East Yorkshire.
A delighted Graham Ward OBE, chief executive of STC, presented development manager Robert Ramsden with the first fruit this week, just in time for Christmas.
Whilst Delifresh will commence wholesale distribution in January, the first few harvests will be hitting the shelves for consumers in the run up to Christmas through members of the East Yorkshire Local Food Network (EYLFN), including Vanessa’s Deli in Beverley and Langlands Garden Centre in Shiptonthorpe.
Nigel Bartle, chair of the British Tomato Growers Association and board member of the EYLFN, plans to help the sales in the run up to Christmas: “I’m looking forward to taking the tomato costume from Graham to go out and invite people to taste this incredible tasting fruit.
“Sunstream is a lovely variety, with a deep red colour, but most importantly, has that home grown flavour. So with your turkey and tinsel, don’t forget your Yorkshire tomatoes!”
Selby based Stockbridge Technology Centre leads the way in research into LED lighting and the new facility for tall crops such as tomatoes complements an existing facility looking at multi-layer crops that could be a model for urban farms of the future.
The state of the art Greenhouse looks like a Christmas wonderland with its red and blue lights, however is not producing just for Christmas. The lights will shine throughout the spring, meaning fresh year round Yorkshire tomatoes will be available for the first time.
STC Science Director Martin McPherson said: “This is a great example of us carrying out world leading research and development, but giving everyone the chance to participate by delivering fresh, local food.”
The development at STC has been made possible through support from the industry but especially CambridgeHOK, Philips Horticulture LED Solutions, Norfolk tomato grower Cornerways Nursery and the British Tomato Growers Association (TGA).
Several other companies including Havecon bv, Grodan, PlantRaisers Ltd, Meteor Systems, Derek Hargreaves consultancy and XL Horticulture have helped make the project a success through provision of both products and expertise.
CambridgeHOK and Philips will also be working closely with STC on the growing strategy for the crop to maximise production and fruit quality and their plant specialists will visit the trial regularly to provide support to the project.
Stockbridge Technology Centre is an independent, not for profit organisation that is wholly owned by the UK horticultural industry and is a centre of excellence in technology transfer to agriculture and horticulture.