A new £30m factory which has been seven years in the making has opened its doors in Ellesmere Port.
William Sinclair Horticulture is now fully in business on a 50-acre super site on Bridges Road.
The firm, which employs 75 full-time roles, is said to signal a new high-tech era in one of Britain’s most traditional industries.
In addition to the £5m purchase of the site, the company has spent £25m in the centre of excellence which manufactures a unique new generation peat substitute.
Fully operational following a three-year design and development programme, the factory employs revolutionary technologies.
The company’s brands of growing composts are supplied to stores across the country.
The firm invested seven years and more than £5m into researching and developing its new peat substitute made from composted wood produced at Sinclair’s own composting facility in Lincolnshire.
Now perfected, the rest of the operation takes place entirely at Ellesmere Port, where the woody material is treated to produce a new growing compost which looks, feels and smells like peat and, it is claimed, extensive trials found it outperformed 100% peat mixes.
Announcing the Ellesmere Port factory opening, 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.”
The 75 full-time employees on the site are split between operations, distribution, marketing and technical along with a new glasshouse research facility.
The huge 400,000 sq ft production halls are occupied by an imposing array of plant which can process over 7,200 cubic metres of growing composts a day through 45 computer-controlled hoppers which can mix and switch between any of 4,000 different mixes instantaneously.
These include peat, peat-reduced, peat-free and loam products.
The plant can produce up to 60,000 50 litre bags for retail and commercial customers every 24 hours linked to a distribution hub which can handle 300 outbound loads a day.
With storage facilities for 165,000 pallets and a new semi-automated warehouse, the firm aims to be able to fulfil all orders within seven days, even in peak season.
Many of the new compost’s processes and treatments have been invented in-house by Sinclair’s own scientists with help from outside laboratories and testing facilities.