A new £3million glasshouse will supply garden centres and farmshops with Dorset grown plants and will be a home to horticultural education.

Stewarts Garden Centres are nearing completion of the agri-tech glasshouse and education facility at Broomhill.

Stewarts Agritech Glasshouse will enable the growth of a wide variety of plants to supply other south coast garden centres and farm shops with Dorset grown plants, reducing reliance on imports and safeguarding rural jobs.

The glasshouse is planned to be a commercial success, but it will also be a base of horticultural education for local schools and colleges, showcasing horticultural practice, agri-tech machinery and low-carbon technology.

The new 10,000 square metre glasshouse growing facility will enable the garden centre to grow 500,000 plants during any one year.

Martin Stewart, managing director of Stewarts Garden Centres, said: “Ten years ago, it was a dream of ours to build a glasshouse like this.

"We built this for commercial reasons, but we also built it to teach people about modern horticulture.

"We will have up to seven classroom facilities that could be used for primary schools through to education classes with Kingston Maurward College.

“We’re very proud to say that this is a sustainable venture, and we hope this is absolutely carbon neutral when fully operational.”

The new building was made possible thanks to funding from Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Low Carbon Dorset.

Luke Rake, Dorset LEP Board Member and Principal of Kingston Maurward College, said: “This project is not just an example of an innovative business succeeding in agri-tech. This is a key education facility which will be used by local businesses, schools, and colleges like Kingston Maurward College.

“Agri-tech is a high-growth sector in Dorset and that’s why Dorset LEP has featured it within the Local Industrial Strategy for Dorset.

"Projects like this will boost the agri-tech sector and benefit our local economy.”

Katie Dawes of Low Carbon Dorset, said: “Low Carbon Dorset has provided financial and technical support for the low-carbon aspects of this project which included a ground-source heat pump and solar thermal screening for the new glasshouse, and LED lighting and solar panels at Stewarts Garden Centres Broomhill and Christchurch sites.

"Combined these measures will save around 450 tonnes of CO2e and £50K in energy costs each year.”

Stewarts Agritech Glasshouse is expected to be completed later this year and opened to the public in spring 2022.

Education facilities will be completed and ready to invite students by September 2022.