Phil Pearson – Red Tractor Tomato Grower
The UK might not have the same climate associated with some of the world’s largest tomato-growing regions, but that doesn’t hold back farmers like Phil Pearson.
He has embraced some of the most advanced technology used in food production to allow his glasshouses to produce tomatoes for 12 months of the year.
His company, APS Group, has glass covering the equivalent of 250 football pitches across the UK – just to produce fresh, tasty Red Tractor Certified tomatoes for UK shoppers.
“It’s always a surprise to people how many tomatoes are grown in the UK,” he said.
“The main difference between what we grow here and imported produce is that we harvest ours when they’re very red and they have the flavour that other fruit doesn’t have.”
Making the most of every bit of technology and also natural resources helps the business be as efficient and environmentally sensitive as possible.
They capture rain from the roof to irrigate the plants, pump CO2 in from an energy plant to boost yields and even introduce insects to control crop pests in order to reduce pesticide use.
British bees are also brought in to naturally pollinate the crop.
“Care for the environment, particularly as outlined in the Red Tractor scheme, is incredibly important to us,” he added. “Their audits make sure we’re doing things the right way, and that the tomatoes are produced to good environmental standards”.
But one of the breakthrough technologies which most consumers in the UK will not be aware of is the use of LEDs to grow tomatoes when there is little sunlight.
“The idea is that you only use a small amount of electricity to produce just the right light wavelength that the crop wants to be able to grow tomatoes year-round.
“This means that we can supply UK, Red Tractor Certified tomatoes for practically the whole year – even on Christmas day – and not many people would think that is possible in this climate.
I’m immensely proud of the tomatoes we grow here. We’re picking them and they’re on the shelf within 24 or 36 hours so they can’t get any fresher.”
You can support Red Tractor farmers like Phil by looking out for the Red Tractor label on the food you buy next time you are in the shops.