The opening of William Sinclair Horticulture’s new ?25 million growing media supersite in Ellesmere Port signals a new high tech era in one of Britain’s most traditional industries.
Fully operational following a three-year design and development programme, the 50-acre site on the banks of the Mersey is now Sinclair’s commercial, technical, operational and logistical centre of excellence, showcasing proprietary and world-leading technologies which look set to revolutionise the growing media sector.
In the huge 400,000 sq ft production halls, an imposing array of plant can process over 7,200 cubic metres of growing media per day via grading machines, roof screens and 45 computer-controlled hoppers which can mix and switch between any of 4,000 different recipes instantaneously.
Using technology developed for the food industry, washers, tumblers, filters and industrial magnets clean the raw materials as they travel along 250 metres of conveyor belt.
Be it peat, peat-reduced, peat-free or loam ? under the J. Arthur Bower’s, Growing Success, New Horizon or Sinclair Professional brand ? the perfectly graded and mixed growing media eventually arrives at huge automatic bagging and baling machines en route to the despatch bay.
Sinclair’s new plant is producing for retail and commercial customers up to 60,480 50L bags or 806 pallets of growing media every 24 hours, as well as 96 3.5CuM bales, 100 1.3t IBC bags and eight 75CuM bulk loads. And the site is fully integrated into Canute’s North-West distribution hub which can handle 300 outbound loads per day.
Among the new and next generation machinery installed are a Slootweg screening process for exceptional grade control; a Sinclair-patented high tech mix control system for absolute blend consistency; and an Apollo 65T big bale press affording a 50% increase in production capacity. The site also boasts the only T2/Votech bagging and box palletisation system in the Uk ? a state-of-the-art solution which gives not only a 30% capacity increase but also unprecedented pallet presentation with perfect pallets and no bag overhang.
And with on-site storage facilities for 165,000 pallets and a new semi-automated warehouse, Sinclair aims to be able to fulfill all orders within seven days, even in peak season.
While retailers and growers must benefit greatly from this modern supply chain with its promise of unprecedented service levels, the new facility’s major long term impact on the industry will come from its revolutionary ? and patented? new peat substitute, SuperFyba? 2.0. SuperFyba?
In response to the Government edict that peat must be eradicated from retail growing media by 2020 and from professional media by 2030, Sinclair has invested seven years and over ?5m into researching and developing its new SuperFyba? peat substitute which is made from composted oversize wood produced at Sinclair’s own composting facility at Wroot in Lincolnshire.
Now perfected, the rest of the operation takes place entirely at Ellesmere Port where the woody material is meticulously screened, washed and fiberized to produce a new growing medium which looks, feels and smells like peat ?and in extensive trials has been found to outperform 100% peat recipes.
The source material (tree and shrub loppings) undergoes numerous processes including high temperature, pressure, wetting and shredding treatments. The resulting fibre is screened once more to produce fine and coarse grades with the required light weight and structure which is pleasant to handle and can be easily blended with other growing media ingredients.
Plant capacity is currently 300,000m3 per annum for use in peat-free and peat-reduced growing media and soil improvers. Eventually the Ellesmere Port SuperFyba? facility will be capable of replacing Sinclair?s entire annual peat harvest.
Critically, in view of the variable performance of some earlier peat alternatives made from unsuitable soft woods and other waste materials, SuperFyba? is fit for purpose, even outperforming peat in company and external trials. Sinclair’s high tech, patented processes deliver a consistent, free-flowing, fine and crumbly compost boasting all the air, water and nutrient holding properties of peat.
Many of the new SuperFyba? processes and treatments have been invented in-house by Sinclair’s own scientists with help from outside laboratories and testing facilities. With numerous patents in place and applied for, Sinclair has put itself in a strong position to lead the market as the new regulations are enforced.
?25m Ellesmere Port growing media facility opens for business
The company is confident that gardeners and growers will embrace SuperFyba? once they have tried it. Sinclair acknowledges that some users have been reluctant to switch to peat alternatives in the past but they say that
SuperFyba? is vastly superior, both technically and functionally, to any other peat alternative. Gardeners will have plenty of time to try it and reassure themselves over the next few years before peat disappears.
The Ellesmere Port site also houses Sinclair’s Silvaperl? business which is the Uk?s only source for furnace-treated Perlite and Vermiculite. These valuable minerals have exceptional air and water retention properties due to their 96% pore volume after processing.
Announcing the Ellesmere Port factory opening, William Sinclair Horticulture CEO, Peter Rush said:
“This is a highly significant milestone, not only for Sinclair but also for the industry which can now meet consumer, grower and regulatory growing media demands in the years and decades ahead.
“Our investment in this world-leading compost production facility has been considerable in financial terms but it could not have happened without the ingenuity and commitment of a large Sinclair team, of whom I am immensely proud.
“It has been seven years coming but it is finally here and we are fully operational. Sinclair products and services are now entering a new era.”
There are some 75 full-time employees on the site split between operations, distribution, marketing and technical functions ? the latter now being served by a new glasshouse research facility.