Sinclair opens £25m growing media supersite

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".

Sinclair Ellesmere Port
Sinclair Ellesmere Port

The 20ha site on the banks of the Mersey is now fully operational following a three-year design and development programme.

The site is now Sinclair's "commercial, technical, operational and logistical centre of excellence".

In the 40,000sqm production halls, new plant can process more than 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.

Sinclair's new plant is producing for retail and commercial customers up to 60,480 50 litre 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. The site is integrated into Canute's North-West distribution hub which can handle 300 outbound loads per day.

Among the new machinery installed are a Slootweg screening process for grade control, a Sinclair-patented high tech mix control system for blend consistency, and an Apollo 65T big bale press affording a 50 per cent increase in production capacity. The site also has the only T2/Votech bagging and box palletisation system in the UK, which gives a 30 per cent capacity increase and better pallet presentation.

There is on-site storage facilities for 165,000 pallets and a new semi-automated warehouse, so Sinclair aims to be able to fulfil all orders within seven days, even in peak season.

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.

At Ellesmere Port, the woody material is screened, washed and fiberized to produce a new growing medium.

The source material of tree and shrub loppings undergoes processes including high temperature, pressure, wetting and shredding treatments. The resulting fibre is screened once more to produce fine and coarse grades.

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.

Sinclair says SuperFyba outperforms peat in company and external trials.

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".

The Ellesmere Port site also houses Sinclair's Silvaperl business, which is the UK’s only source for furnace-treated Perlite and Vermiculite.

William Sinclair Horticulture chief executive officer 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 75 full-time employees on the site split between operations, distribution, marketing and technical functions.

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