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First ever commercial crop of vertically-grown strawberries heralds more sustainable future for UK fruit and veg production

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A revolutionary and significantly greener way of growing fruit and vegetables in the UK is starting to gather pace.

From this week a West Sussex fruit grower will deliver to Tesco the first commercial volumes of vertically-grown strawberries in a production system requiring 50 per cent less water and with a 90 per cent reduction in carbon footprint per kilo of fruit.

Even better news for space-challenged fruit and vegetable farmers is that yields from vertically-grown crops are significantly higher than by using conventional production methods.

Direct Produce Supplies Ltd (DPS), who have been supplying Tesco with fresh produce for 40 years, have been trialling vertically-grown strawberries for the last three years at their farm near Arundel, West Sussex.

Now the fruits of their labour are ready to hit stores, with a predicted yield of nearly 1,000,000 kgs of strawberries to the supermarket this summer.

red strawberries
The innovative new production system requires 50 per cent less water and has a 90 per cent reduction in carbon footprint per kilo of fruit. (Image: Oleg Magni / Pexels.com)

But more importantly for other fresh produce growers is that the vertical technique they used will have massive energy saving implications for the environment and also lead to better fruit availability and quality.

In the last three years, DPS – who have developed and planned the ground-breaking project exclusively with Tesco – have tested several different structures and methods. They have now developed a system which:

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  • Requires 50 per cent less water than everyday production
  • Has a 90 per cent lower carbon footprint per kilo of strawberries
  • Yields five times more fruit per square metre than existing methods
  • Can deliver a constant supply of strawberries for up to nine months without the impact of adverse weather conditions
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Tesco fruit technical manager Sabina Wyant said: “Vertical crop production is a giant step for fresh produce growers in helping reduce their carbon footprint and use less water, at the same time boosting their yields.

“For shoppers there is also a clear benefit, with consistent quality fruit and availability for up to nine months of the year, regardless of the weather conditions.

“By example, right now during Wimbledon fortnight, the UK sees the highest demand of the year for strawberries but sometimes adverse weather conditions can challenge production at this time, leaving retailers with a shortfall.

“Vertical-farming will put an end to that uncertainty and ensure perfect growing conditions during an extended nine month season.”

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The premise of vertical farming is growing fruit or vegetables indoors under fully controlled conditions and reducing the industry’s environmental impact.

This is done hydroponically – with a water feed – instead of in soil, in multiple stacked layers in an indoor environment which guarantees yields while improving the supply of healthy, nutritious food and minimising the miles involved in its distribution.

DPS CEO Paul Beynon said: “Vertical farming offers growers a protected environment that requires significantly less land, water and energy to produce excellent quality crops.

“We chose our farm location near Chichester on the south coast because this region gives the highest natural levels of light and heat in the UK and so maximises the potential.

“We are still at a relatively early stage in vertical-growing and in the future we believe that we can make even further advances in sustainable strawberry production and that other fruit crops could take to the system in a similar way.”

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(Lead image: Tesco)


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Food & Drink

Winner winner, weekday dinners: Morrisons introduces midweek dinners for under a fiver in its cafés

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Amidst the cost of living crisis, supermarket giant Morrisons is introducing a ‘meal of the day’ for under a fiver to its cafés nationwide.

Every weekday from 3pm, a ‘Daily Special’ will be discounted, offering a saving of up to £3.89 on the individual product price.

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The meal on offer will rotate each day and customers can choose from British roast chicken served with chips and coleslaw, a hearty chicken tikka masala, a 9-piece breakfast brunch, a succulent British cheeseburger served with chips and coleslaw and the ultimate beer-battered fish and chips.

The offer includes a drink and vegetarian alternatives are also available.

Each meal will be priced at £4.99, which the supermarket chain says makes them cheaper than the same evening meals at Wetherspoons, Harvester and Beefeater.

Morrisons also say that kids can also eat free all day with the purchase of any adult meal, meaning a family of four can enjoy a meal out together for just £9.98.

Ali Lyons, Head of Morrisons Cafés, says: “We know how hard it is for our customers at the moment and we want to make sure they are still able to enjoy a meal out, even on a budget. We’ve handpicked these favourites so that no matter what day it is, our customers can enjoy a saving.”

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Morrisons £4.99 offer will be available in its 406 cafés nationwide after 3pm every weekday. The ‘Daily Specials’ on offer are:

MondayRoast Chicken served with Chips & Coleslaw or Cheese & Onion Quiche served with Chips & Coleslaw 
TuesdayChicken Tikka Masala or Mac ‘n’ Cheese 
WednesdayBreakfast Brunch or Full Vegetarian Breakfast 
ThursdayCheeseburger served with Chips & Coleslaw  or Vegetarian burger served with Chips & Coleslaw 
FridayUltimate Fish & Chips

(Lead image: Morrisons)

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Food & Drink

Proposal to ban tea and coffee for under 16s in Wales branded ‘illiberal’

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photo of person s hand pouring liquid to cup

Proposals to consider banning the sale of tea and coffee to under-16s in Wales have been labelled ‘outrageously illiberal’ by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.

The Welsh Labour Government reportedly confirmed that it is considering the move as part of plans to make young people healthier and stop rising obesity rates.

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The move comes as the Welsh Government raise concerns of the rising consumption of high-caffeine energy drinks among young people is also causing concern about the effects on their education.

Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds said: “It is beggars’ belief that this is even under consideration.

“We are all aware obesity is a serious problem in Wales and it is important that we take action to reduce the levels across Wales.

“However, it doesn’t take an expert consultation to realise that tea and coffee are not responsible for high obesity levels.

“It would be outrageously illiberal to ban the sale of coffee and tea to under 16-year-olds, something which they regularly drink themselves at home.”

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(Lead image: Elina Fairytale / Pexels.com)

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Food & Drink

Tesco makes it even easier for Swansea shoppers to help local food banks and charities

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Tesco is making it easier than ever for shoppers to give a helping hand to food banks and charities feeding people in their local community, with ready-prepared donation bags at local stores in Swansea this summer.

The Tesco Food Collection is taking place in every large Tesco store across the UK from Thursday, June 30 until Saturday, July 2, and shoppers are being urged to donate long-life food to support local food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network and thousands of frontline charities supplied by FareShare. Tesco will top up all food donations made during the collection with an extra 20% cash donation to support the two charities.

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The pre-filled donation bags, available during the collection, will contain items that are most-needed by the local Trussell Trust foodbank or frontline charities supplied by FareShare. Shoppers will be able to scan the contents at the till as part of their usual shop before dropping the bag into the food collection donation trolley.

It is one of a number of new ways that customers can give their support during this summer’s food collection. Shoppers can also for the first time round up their bill at the checkout to make a small donation to both the charities.

From this week it is also easier for customers who shop in Express stores to support the charities, with new permanent donation points being placed in every Tesco Express store in the UK for the first time, meaning shoppers will now be able to donate at Express stores year-round. Shoppers can also donate their Tesco Clubcard points online to either of the charities.

Tesco’s Pre-filled donation bags

Tesco Head of Community Claire de Silva said, “This collection marks ten years of us working with the Trussell Trust and FareShare. During that decade our customers have been amazingly generous, donating more than 100 million meals during our food collections and at permanent collection points in stores. This summer we wanted to make it even easier for customers to donate as we know that every can donated really does help.”

Donations are more important than ever as the charities have reported increasing need for food.

Sarah Germain, CEO at FareShare Cymru, said: “Our charities are telling us that the need for food has vastly increased as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, and over the last year we’ve continued to deliver four meals every second to people facing food insecurity across the UK.

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“That’s why we would be immensely grateful to anyone who is able to donate a bag of pasta or tin of vegetables over the Tesco Food Collection weekend – your generous donations will help us continue providing vital support to families struggling to cope this summer.”

Danni Malone, Director of Network Programmes and Innovation at the Trussell Trust added: “Every year, we are amazed by the generosity of Tesco customers who donate to the Food Collection.

“We know that many families on the very lowest incomes have been forced to the doors of food banks to get by, as the nation faces a rapid rise in the cost of living and continues to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic. So, once again, we are calling on shoppers to give generously and make a difference to people who need our support over the coming weeks and months.”

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