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Making all-year-round fruit, veg and tea commercially viable

Meet the Network

Energy costs have challenged horticulture this year and questioned the viability of vertical farming, but a solution may come from geothermal energy, according to Karl Farrow, founder and CEO of CeraPhi Energy.

The company is proposing a radical rethink of energy supply that could see us growing a diverse range of crops – even commercial quantities of tea – in a climatised environment.

CeraPhi Energy specialises in Deep Geothermal heat exchange technology and will be discussing the opportunities for farmers in the Agri-TechE Innovation Hub at the Royal Norfolk Show. Karl says there is huge potential to use this energy source to revitalise UK horticulture.

He comments: “In 15 years Holland has transitioned from being a net importer of flowers and vegetables to become the third largest exporter, all in a region the size of the East of England. We are building a strong business case for deep energy that would make growing a wide range of imported products commercially viable for the UK.”

Unlike solar or wind power, which is variable, geothermal energy can be used on-farm to provide 24/7 baseload sustainable energy for heating, cooling and power. CeraPhi argues that it is an energy solution that will enable UK farming to significantly reduce the amount of food imported in 10 years.

Ceraphi CEO, Karl Farrow (web)
CeraPhi CEO, Karl Farrow

The company sees potential for geothermal energy in developments such as one planned site will be drilling 8 wells of approximately 1 to 2 km deep the project will produce sufficient to provide baseload heat to 10 hectares of commercial glass houses. Its CeraPhiWell™ Technology uses a novel closed loop well system in which a heat exchange liquid is circulated to carry the heat from deep below the ground to the surface.

Conventional shallow heat pump bore holes take up considerable space and are not always favourable for larger commercial applications. Pulling on the companies Oil and Gas expertise in drilling deep wells providing boreholes of between 1 to 3km in depth can create sufficient thermal temperature for direct heat and cooling use and at deeper depth up to 6km power generation can also be achieved. A typical well site layout would have the surface area equivalent to six parking spaces once drilling is complete with minimal land use and causing minimal disruption.

CeraPhi is planning to create a centre of excellence in Norfolk to include an agricultural centre along with water treatment facilities and is looking for farmers and landowners interested in collaborating on such a project.

Karl continues: “Supermarkets want a consistent, reliable source of quality produce and importing food is becoming less cost-efficient and come with a significant carbon footprint with growing concerns around supply chain issues due to climate vulnerability. This is creating an opportunity for UK farmers – with a sustainable energy supply local producers would be able to compete with cheaper foreign imports.”

CeraPhi is thinking bigger than all-year fruit and veg, as Karl explains: “I see the potential to diversify into non-traditional crops and produce a high-quality, single origin British version of camellia sinensis, the ultimate English breakfast tea!

CeriPhi Energy Deep Geothermal diagram
Click to enlarge

“We have already identified a site and have the opportunity to build the world’s first decentralised, zero-waste operation for tea cultivation. This proof-of-concept project would show the potential of growing a vast range of crops in non-traditional settings.”

The development of a new heat network for agriculture is supported by the Environment Agency and is part of the BEIS British Energy Industrial Strategy.

CeraPhi is appearing in the Innovation Hub at the 2023 Royal Norfolk Show.
Read more about the 2023 Innovation Hub >>

Innovation Hub 2023