Hello, welcome to Thanet Earth's latest tomato greenhouse. My name's Gert van Straalen, I'm in charge of the tomatoes at Thanet Earth where I grow tomatoes in two beautiful state-of-the-art facilities.
I moved here in 2008 to help build this project and our first crop right away went to Tesco. We produce about 200 tonnes of tomatoes per week so we have 45 acres of tomato production year round.
Our plants grow in rockwool substrate, we get them when they're about a foot and a half and from that point onwards, they grow a foot per week. So every week the plant grows and grows and grows. We pick the tomatoes in crates. The tomatoes then go to the pack house where they get packed and graded to the finest quality standard. Fruits we harvest for Tesco are ripening naturally on the plant so we only harvest the fruits that are completely ripe.
The fuel we burn is natural gas, the waste product is CO2 and hot water, both of which we use in our production process. We dose CO2 in the greenhouse, we enrich the climate so that the process of photosynthesis is more efficient and therefore we get healthier plants, stronger fruits, better fruits, higher quality fruits and more flavoursome fruits.
The way the greenhouse is shaped enables us to collect all the rainwater that falls on the roof. We store that rainwater in a big pond and therefore we greatly reduce the necessity to use mains water.
In our greenhouse we have a population of good bugs that are fighting bad bugs because what we don't want to do is spray chemicals on our crop. We have two types of waste; the plants go for composting and the plastic goes for recycling. So we have virtually no impact on the environment.
Tesco is our most important customer in terms of tomatoes. We have a very positive relationship with them. The varieties we produce for Tesco are very different in size, taste and appearance. For instance, we produce a large vine tomato which has six large fruits on the vine, we produce this variety which has got 11 fruits on the vine, this is called Sunstream, and we also produce a variety called Piccolo, which is the premium cherry tomato variety and the flavour is superb.
When customers are choosing tomatoes, they should look for the ripeness of the fruit, the strength of the vine - you want a thick strong vine that indicates a strong plant with lots of nutrients, lots of flavour in the fruit. They should look for the deepness of the red on the fruit; British tomatoes have a really nice, deep red look to them which indicates a lush flavour.