A TEESSIDE tomato grower has been praised for using cutting-edge green technology to tackle climate change.
Billingham-based John Baarda is setting an example in the agricultural industry by growing crops all year round from greenhouses which use waste heat and carbon dioxide from local industry, to produce high yields of salad.
Humberside fruit and veg producer John Baarda announced plans for the £14m facility on Teesside in 2005.
Speaking at the Agricultural Industries Confederation’s annual conference in Peterborough, Richard Ellis, chairman of the East of England Development Agency (EEDA), praised the company’s efforts.
He said: “John Baarda is a great example to others in the agri-food industry to show how technology can help tackle climate change and save money.
“Running glasshouses using waste heat and CO2 from industrial processes to produce high yields of salad crops under glass means it is removing approximately 250,000 food miles, by replacing imports of Spanish tomatoes with over-wintered tomatoes from the UK whilst also diverting 12,500 tonnes of waste CO2 from the atmosphere.”
But Mr Ellis believes agricultural businesses are only just beginning to benefit from the opportunities presented to them by being proactive in tackling green issues.
“This is why the regional development agencies are involved, to help the farming industry and private and public sector to adapt to and mitigate against the key challenges of climate change,” he said.
“We believe that the answer can lie in developing new low carbon technologies and techniques. Leading by example will lead to success and there are some great examples to look to for inspiration.”
John Baarda’s pioneering Belasis Park site boasts six gigantic greenhouses, producing more than 7,000 tonnes of tomatoes each year.
When it opened last year, it was the first time British tomatoes were grown all year round, in the most technologically-advanced unit in the UK.
The plant uses by-products of carbon dioxide, electricity and steam from chemical firm GrowHow UK to aid production.
The carbon dioxide boosts production by up to 50% while also cutting carbon emissions into the atmosphere.