PTG Members' Grower visits

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The Pepper Technology Group visited several nurseries in the Lea Valley in September to see new technology and generally discuss their experiences.

 Site 1: Guy and Wright

John Jones and Robert Jones welcomed the PTG members with a cuppa then showed us around their tomato nursery.


Bio-gas storage envelope and staw-fired biomass boiler at Guy & Wright



John talks us through the bio-digester cells


      Monitoring the Anaerobic digestion process

A self-contained CHP unit similar to that at G&W (Pic: MWM)

With so much investment in energy, there was a lot to see and talk about at the first nursery. The Anaerobic Digestion plant is well established and provides methane to the boilers, mini-turbines and Edina CHP engine on site via a scrubber unit. With the engine specifically configured for biogas, John quoted efficiencies for heat and electricity around 45%. After perfecting the operation of their straw burning biomass boiler, Robert has set up ARG biomass to import straw burning boilers.

Lunch was a relaxed affair, Gary buying the sandwiches for us to eat in the park before we headed off on our next visit.

Lunch, courtesy of the chairman

Site 2: Pecks Hill Nursery

Salv Cappalonga talked to us about his Nivolator vertical fans and Enbar pesticide application equipment (see below). Tests have shown a reduction in top-bottom temperature difference in Salv’s cucumber crop from 6°C to 0.6°C using the vertical fans, however he suspects that they may be contributing to powdery mildew infections by spreading spores around the crop more than traditional horizontal fans. General discussions on the Enbar system concluded the investment was high but results from applying pesticides in such fine mists and circulating using vertical fans gave excellent results.


Enbar LVM spraying equipment and Nivolator vertical fans at Pecks Hill



Salv Cappalonga talked temperatures and supplied coffee and cakes


Site 3: UK Salads

After a tour of the pepper and aubergine crops, where pest problems (especially Aulacorthum) and the varieties being grown were discussed, Vito and Gordon kindly answered all of our questions regarding their Herz BioFire 995 biomass boiler, installed by Rural Energy. The 995kW woodchip burning unit, which was surprisingly compact, has only been commissioned very recently so much of the talk centred on the logistics of handling large volumes of woodchip, its quality and the day to day operation of the boiler.


Peppers (we did see some!) and new woodchip biomass at UK Salads



Daily operation of the Biomass boiler at UK Salads


Site 4: Valley Grown Nurseries

Finally, we visited VGN, where Gary showed us round the site of their new construction project. 10ha of new glass is being erected in two phases in the coming years. The project is well under way, with the earthworks concentrating on levelling the site prior to construction. Re-shaping an existing lake has taken a lot of time so far, as have various ecological and archaeological surveys. Whilst the plan is to provide the bulk of the heating from conventional gas boilers, some heat demand will be satisfied by a ground source heat pump.


Earthworks at VGN prior to construction of their new Glasshouses


The group all gave very positive feedback on the tours and thanked all of our hosts for allowing us onto their nurseries. The turnout was pretty good, and hopefully we can have some ideas for the next round of walks next summer. Thanks to Nick Field, Gracie Emeny and Jack Field for the photographs.

Other news

The PTG technical sub-group (Neal Ward, Nick Giardina, Gary Taylor, Richard Binks, Debbie Wilson, Gracie Emeny) has been formed to take on more in-depth technical issues and liaise with the HDC. The general aims of the sub-group will be:

1.       Represent pepper grower interests on industry issues e.g. crop protection issues, new energy legislation/issues, assurance schemes, Health and Safety

2.       Review of funded work and discuss and prioritise future needs for the pepper sector

3.       Act as a focus for technical information exchange between the PTG and the HDC

4.       To inform representation on HDC funded projects including GrowSave and the new thematic work areas

The sub-group will meet twice a year and communicate the outcomes of the meetings to the entire PTG.

A preliminary meeting in July was held at HDC and a programme of 2 grower visits and 2 tech group meetings was decided upon:


March – Tech group meets to review HDC projects relevant to peppers and plan new work and grower visits for the coming season. Minutes circulated to the entire group for feedback

Summer – First grower visit – findings and points raised reported to entire PTG via newsletter

Autumn – Second grower visit followed by tech group meeting to ‘mop up’ issues raised by the main group during the two grower visits – Second newsletter and minutes produced for circulation to the whole PTG

Once they have been produced and agreed, the minutes of the September meeting will be sent round to the PTG via email.


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