Anthony Snell, a farm owner from Hereford, farms 500 acres of soft fruit including blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants, blueberries and strawberries. Find out how he has extended his strawberry growing season through the use of polytunnel technology.
Anthony plants 'everbearing' strawberries in March - everbearing strawberry plants produce fruit throughout an entire growing season. This means that in June, July and August they are continuously flowering and harvested.
Between October and March the strawberries grow in the open air, but when first planted in March they are covered in polytunnel sheets. The polytunnel acts like a greenhouse and creates a warmer microclimate for the strawberries to grow in. A thermostat is used to measure the temperature 24/7 to make sure the strawberries always stay at optimum temperature and growing conditions. The increased UV they get means they can be grown for longer and there is less need to import strawberries from other countries.
The polytunnels also protect the crop from rain which spreads disease and rots plants, damaging the soft skin of the strawberry. Because the strawberries are protected it also means that Anthony and Tom can use less chemicals and pesticides to keep them in top condition.
Inside the polytunnels are moisture monitoring sensors that can track how much water the plants are getting and let the farmers know how damp it is inside the tunnels. These monitoring systems are also important for reducing water waste as they can catch run off water from the plants.
Putting environmental measures in place is important for farmers and so most polytunnels are made from non-single use plastic meaning they can be recycled and reused for other purposes.
Protecting the animals in his environment is also vital for Anthony who has brought bee hives into the polytunnels. The Bombus Audax bees are a native species which pollinates flowers and allow not only a safe environment for the bees to live in but also his plants are pollinated earlier than usual.