Hall Hunter looks to extend soft fruit season

Soft fruit grower Hall Hunter is looking to extend its production season by heating its polytunnels using a novel river source heat pump system installed by Ebtech Energy Systems.

Since January, 11 tunnels on Hall Hunter’s 80 ha site have been heated by the 8.8 MW heat pump which utilises five high-efficiency Hydrocat units to utilise water from the nearby River Lodden, a tributary of the River Thames. It is estimated that the system will save 44,000 tonnes of CO2 compared to gas-heating over the next 20 years.

“This heat exchange has very low impact in terms of carbon footprint and it reduces food miles at the same time,” said Brent Lawson, managing director with Hall Hunter. “By extending our season at the start and at the end, we can produce 800 tonnes of  strawberries at a time which normally have been imported from Spain in the spring and Holland in the autumn.

“You can see it right away which tunnels are heated, and which are not. We hoped to start the season by 1st April, but eventually harvested our first berries on 10th April. That means that we are 4 to 5 weeks earlier in production compared to our unheated tunnels.”

Looking towards the future, the company already has plans to extend the current heat exchanger and build an additional project on another farm ahead of the 2022 season. “If we get up to 20 hectares of heated tunnels fuelled by renewable energy systems, this will ensure we can significantly reduce both food miles and carbon emissions for British consumers,” said Brent.

Photo caption: The system is the largest river-source heat pump installation in the UK

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