Additional light is used in the tomato greenhouse to enable production of tomatoes for 12 months of the year. Most UK growers can only produce for 9 months of the year, so this innovation gives the opportunity to provide high quality and consistent tomatoes all year round. We extend the plants' exposure to daylight (with blinds closed to minimise the waste of energy) giving us good crop yields right through the depths of winter.
The lights are used in our winter production months from around midnight until either the external light levels are considered sufficient to turn them off, or until around 3pm when we export our electricity to the National Grid to meet the increased domestic demand. The plants are then left to 'go to sleep' with the disappearing natural daylight.
Aside from light, water and food, each plant needs heat and carbon dioxide. We therefore use a CHP (combined heat and power) system to help with this. Each greenhouse has its own power station, using natural gas to power an engine that produces electricity. We sell the majority of the electricity we produce to the National Grid. The by-products of this process are heat and carbon dioxide. Normally these would be released into the atmosphere via a cooling tower but the clever part about Thanet Earth is that we need those very by-products as an essential ingredient to grow our crops. We therefore harness the heat via hot water tanks and pump the carbon dioxide into the greenhouses where it's fully utilised by our plants. This system is what makes Thanet Earth so environmentally-friendly, with our electricity being used by homes and businesses in Thanet.
Once ready, the crops are harvested and put through a factory where they are packed for the supermarket shelves.