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Kent farm uses river source heat pump to help grow fruit all year


Clock House Farm uses river source heat pump to grow fruit all year

Soft fruit growers in Kent have invested in a river source heat pump project to enable production of fruit throughout the year and reduce the farm’s carbon footprint.

Thought to be the largest project of its kind in Europe, the system involves the extraction of water from the River Medway, which passes through a heat exchanger and is discharged straight back into the river, having removed a couple of degrees of heat from the water. A second loop then transfers this heat to the plant room’s six heat pumps to achieve a temperature of 45 degrees, which is then pumped through 50mm pipes above the soil, releasing heat into 6.5 hectares of greenhouses, where roughly 150 tonnes of raspberries and 300 tonnes of blackberries are grown.

Heated water is also stored in a giant tank as a backup, and to help avoid the consumption of electricity at times of peak demand when electricity is expensive. This heat store can keep heat flowing to the greenhouses for 2 – 8 hours, depending on outside temperatures and how much heat is needed.

Oli Pascall, Managing Director of Clock House Farm said:

“Clock House Farm is committed to the delivery of quality fruit whilst observing the best-in-class sustainability management practices.

“We are always seeking out environmentally responsible initiatives and are delighted to be working together with like-minded organisations who are committed to driving down greenhouse gas emissions.

“By growing fruit out of season, the UK is able to ensure less reliance on imported soft fruit, increasing UK food security and ultimately this also helps to reduce the carbon footprint.”

Energy and System Technical (EAST), supplied and installed the electrical infrastructure to power the heat pumps, working with Vattenfall for later adoption of the high voltage network. The work took around 3 months to complete and involved EAST installing a new DNO substation as well as 2 new customer substations.

The heat pump project is the latest initiative the growers, who have farms across Kent, have implemented to boost productivity, reduce harmful GHG emissions and maintain the natural ecosystem. Solar panels provide power for EV docking stations and the business as a whole, and robotics are used to pick, mow and reduce fungicide use. Thermal screens shade the crop from overheating and optimise energy efficiency, up to 2km of hedges are planted around their fields each year, habitats are preserved via reduced mowing and wildflowers are planted to increase the number of pollinators in crops.