The UK’s largest tomato-growing glasshouse, owned by British Sugar, has announced that it will no longer be producing tomatoes, but rather cannabis - a key ingredient for the pharmaceutical sector. British Sugar’s award-winning horticulture business will make the switch by 2017.
The glasshouse, which covers an area of 18 hectares, produced on average 140 million ‘eco-friendly’ tomatoes a year by utilising the heat and carbon waste emitted from the closely located Wissington Sugar factory.
The partnering pharmaceutical company, GW Pharma, will use the medicinal crop to produce a new prescription drug being developed to treat rare forms of epilepsy in children. The drug, known as Epidiolex, is derived from compounds in the cannabis plant, and has been reported as a potential break-through medicine. The contract with British Sugar means that the medication would be made more widely available.
Paul Kenwood, the managing director has stated that ‘the return will be better than on our tomatoes’ and ‘by growing this crop we are indirectly helping sick children and doing something socially worthwhile.’