Supplier visit to Valefresco

This week we had the opportunity to take the procurement team from one of our long standing customers The Restaurant Group, to meet our friends and long serving suppliers Valefresco, to see their operation and the carbon footprint saving Hydroponic growing system.

Valefresco was established in 2006 with the amalgamation of two-family businesses V&S Pilade and G&G Mauro bringing 25 years experience. They are now one of the leading salad growers in the UK and supplying the major British Supermarkets.

Vito Mauro Director of Valefresco (bottom right) showed us their new hydroponic system for growing pak choi, little gem, Salanova, green Batavia and also experimenting with strawberries.

The soilless growing system means that plants can be grown vertically (see below) and with tailor made nutrients being delivered directly to the plants. Below you can see the different growing stages.







Below notice shows all the sowing and planting dates, but I want or draw your attention to the number of plants there are just in the section bottom left.

Growing facts – This site has 1 hectare in operation, it can harvest 3 times the volume of an outdoor crop. This crop can harvest 7 crops per year compared with just two outdoor crops. This equates to more than 9 times the yield of a standard outdoor crop. The crop can grow all year round and save massively on the carbon footprint.
There is a range of benefits including a closed loop nature system, which reduces the water and nutrients as well as preventing run off into the local environment. It also reduces the level of imported crops during the winter months reducing HGV traffic.

Top right picture we have clay pebbles filled with holes to trap oxygen and also absorb water and release it slowly.







The Harvesting seemed seamless as a conveyor belts ran between the vertical growing pods and are easily picked and placed on the belt were a team packs them at the end of the isle.(Right picture ) – we were taken into an onsite research and development room, working on the right nutrients to get the best yield per different products. Due to the vertical growing pods, several experiments can be done are the same time to get the best result quickly.







Misshapen and unusable logs are used to make wood chip (bottom left) to fuel the very large boiler (bottom right) to fuel the heat in the colder months to create 12 months growing conditions. The lower light and shorted daylight hours in the winter slows the growth of the crop down.







Valefresco showed us a 10 million Gallon reservoir they have built fuelled by a 50 meter deep bore hole into the water plain. Since creating this they have never run out of water or used local river reserves and have been self sustainable including their outdoor crops also (bottom right).