Combining glasshouse developments with energy or heat generation for wider use could allow growers to overcome otherwise insuperable planning obstacles, consultant to the West Sussex Growers Association John Hall told the conference.
"In West Sussex and elsewhere there is a huge problem getting planning permission for new or extended glasshouses and the infrastructure to go with them. Without that, we can't raise production," he said.
"So we need to make it more attractive to local authorities. If you make them a broader proposal, involving heating and CO2 consumption, you get a completely different reaction."
Such "energy hubs"could take the form of conventional combined heat and power units or use anaerobic digestion or biomass as a fuel source, he added. Using geothermal energy for such hubs, as in the Netherlands, "depends on the geology, but it will become an important energy source".
Such crossover developments would offer communities employment and training benefits, boost ancillary industries and help meet environmental aims as well as raising domestic production. Such developments "are growing fast internationally", he added.