Family-owned fruit growers Charlton Farms, based at Langley near Maidstone in Kent, have completed a £5 million investment in fully retractable crop covers to secure its supply of soft and top fruit to multiple retailers.
Local planning specialists DHA helped secure planning permission from Maidstone Council for the 12 ha of covers at Ulcome, despite opposition from locals concerned by the cumulative effects of numerous covers and polytunnels being erected by growers along the Greensand Ridge.
As well as the covers, the investment includes other buildings, water tanks, a drainage system and a 25,000 cu. m. reservoir.
Sean Charlton, managing director at Charlton Farms, said, “The retractable roofs and sides, all fully automated, [they] combine with the weather station and mean we can mitigate the risk of late frosts and rain, protecting our crop and harvesting our table-top grown strawberries between May and November.
“What the Cravo system enables us to do is harvest early from our customers’ perspective, which include Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer, the Co-op and Iceland, and means we can deliver late season British fruit to their stores.
“Building the Cravo greenhouses ourselves, and working very closely with the team in Canada, means we now have a Rolls Royce system that will improve our productivity, competitiveness and also in a small way reduce the UK’s dependence on overseas produced strawberries.”
Picture caption: Cravo covers have been used on crops around the world
Photo source: Cravo