Mill Nurseries in Keyingham is preparing a multi-million-pound project which will expand its greenhouse growing capacity by 25 per cent.
The successful family business, established in 1962, is already East Yorkshire’s biggest grower and fifth largest in the UK, supplying over one hundred million tomatoes a year to supermarkets Cooperative, Waitrose, Morrisons and Lidl.
The latest build project, which will add eight more acres of glasshouses to its current 24-acre capacity at its Mill nurseries site, has been fuelled by increased Cooperative orders and is commencing this month, with completion planned for this November.
Now employing over 100 people, Hermanus de Lang, who runs the family business with his two brothers and sister, said their continued growth has been fuelled by a commitment to constant innovation, quality and a desire to use the latest, sustainable growing methods.
Hermanus said: “From adopting Rockwool as our growing medium in the 1980s to introducing sustainable CHP (combined heat and power) generators and straw-fired boilers to heat our greenhouses, and employing organic pest control methods, we have striven hard to stay ahead in a highly competitive industry, while ensuring our products are of the highest possible quality. The increase in Cooperative orders is testament to that.”
Growing is a competitive game in a world where food production is having to keep pace with an ever-increasing population, and Mill Nurseries have had to strive to stay one step ahead throughout their half a century-plus in operation.
Hermanus’ father Gerrit set up Mill Nurseries on a smaller plot across the road from where it is now, after migrating to the UK from Holland in the 1950s. He started off growing lettuces, chrysanthemums and tomatoes in the soil.
“Ironically, given that’s where our dad hailed from, we keep a close eye on what’s coming out of Holland, which is seen very much as the centre of horticulture around the world,” added Hermanus.
“That’s where a lot of the latest innovations in growing stem from, including environmental control sensors to maximise the potential of every plant.
“Dad was a first-generation grower but spotted an opportunity to do in the UK what had been done in Holland for many years. He arrived in the UK with nothing in his pockets, no possessions or even a suitcase and not even able to speak the language.
“He started to build the business through sheer grit and determination, and just not being prepared to take ‘no’ for an answer. We’re extremely proud of what he achieved.”
Other innovations Hermanus and his brothers are leading on in their father’s memory include sustainable growing methods, including adopting hundreds of endangered bumble bees to pollinate the thousands of tomato plants which stretch as far as the eye can see within their vast glasshouses.