The UK’s largest tomato grower, APS Salads, and supermarket tomato supplier Flavour Fresh Solfresh Group, have both completed their first 12 and 10 month growing cycles using 100% Philips LED light. According to Philips, this marks a trend to move from hybrid lighting, combining LED and conventional high pressure sodium (HPS), to 100% horticultural LED lighting to improve yield and grow consistently tasty, fruit and vegetables all year round.
Phil Pearson, group development director at APS Salads and chair of the British Tomato Growers’ Technical Committee commented says the step saves him energy costs and helps grow better tomatoes. “Before with the hybrid HPS/LED system, we couldn’t achieve consistent crops at an affordable cost, and we were also producing too much heat via HPS lighting in the winter. However, after 12 months with 100% LED, we are growing consistent quality tomatoes right through the winter that taste as good as mid-summer ones.” Pearson says APS is using two-thirds less power compared to when running HPS-lit greenhouses. “Plus we can better control the crop balance because we have total control over the heating and lighting as well as a strong ROI. The new more sustainable system will have paid for itself within three years.”
“It’s the greatest innovation in horticulture since the invention of the tractor.”
Based in Southport in Lancashire, Flavour Fresh Solfresh Group is one of the leading UK salad producers and supplies leading supermarkets with Sweet Rosso, Piccolo, Santini and Tomkin varieties of tomatoes. Before moving to horticultural LED lighting, Flavour Fresh used natural light to grow their tomato crops. This meant that no tomatoes were harvested between December and March. In contrast, Flavour Fresh will now be able to grow tomatoes all year round.
Andy Roe, production manager at Flavour Fresh said, “The dawning of the LED era is without doubt the greatest innovation in horticulture since the invention of the tractor.” Flavour Fresh is expecting an increase in yield of its tomato crop using the LED technology by around 30%.
Philips is pleased with the results. “APS Salads and Flavour Fresh are a testament to how 100% LED light can bring reliability of yield and taste all year round in growing fruit and vegetables. This removes the black cloud of unpredictable weather throughout the seasons that can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line of a grower’s business”, added Udo van Slooten, business leader for Philips Lighting’s Horticulture business.