If you’ve been up to Stewarts Garden Centre at Broomhill recently you may have wondered what the new structure is to be used for.
It has now been revealed that it is a £3 million agritech glasshouse and education facility which is nearing completion. It has been made possible thanks to funding from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Low Carbon Dorset.
The glasshouse will allow Stewarts to grow a wide variety of plants and supply other south coast garden centres and farm shops with Dorset grown plants, reducing reliance on imports and safeguarding rural jobs.
Cecilia Bufton, Dorset LEP chairman, said: “Dorset LEP allocated approximately £300,000 of the UK Government’s Local Growth Fund to this project. This innovative agritech facility will be a much-needed home for practical horticultural education in Dorset.”
Luke Rake, Dorset LEP board member and principal of Kingston Maurward College, said: “This project is not just an example of an innovative business succeeding in agritech. This is a key education facility which will be used by local businesses, schools, and colleges like Kingston Maurward College.
“Agritech is a high-growth sector in Dorset and that’s why Dorset LEP has featured it within the Local Industrial Strategy for Dorset. Projects like this will boost the agri-tech sector and benefit our local economy.”
The new 10,000 square metre glasshouse growing facility will enable the garden centre to grow 500,000 plants during any one year.
Martin Stewart, managing director of Stewarts Garden Centres, said: “Ten years ago, it was a dream of ours to build a glasshouse like this. We built this for commercial reasons, but we also built it to teach people about modern horticulture. We will have up to seven classroom facilities that could be used for primary schools through to education classes with Kingston Maurward College.
“We’re very proud to say that this is a sustainable venture, and we hope this is absolutely carbon neutral when fully operational.”
Katie Dawes, communications and engagement officer at Low Carbon Dorset, said: “Low Carbon Dorset has provided financial and technical support for the low-carbon aspects of this project which included a ground-source heat pump and solar thermal screening for the new glasshouse, and LED lighting and solar panels at Stewarts Garden Centres Broomhill and Christchurch sites. Combined these measures will save around 450 tonnes of CO2e and £50K in energy costs each year.”
Stewarts Agritech Glasshouse is expected to be completed later this year and opened to the public in spring 2022. Education facilities will be completed and ready to invite students by September 2022.
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