Plans have been formed to boost fruit production at a former north-east airfield by replacing ageing polytunnels with modern new greenhouses.
Castleton Fruit is owned and run by the Mitchell family, who have operated various farm locations across the Howe of the Mearns in the south of Aberdeenshire for more than 20 years.
Since entering the fruit farming industry in 1992, Castleton Fruit has become one of Scotland’s largest commercial growers, selling much of its produce to national supermarkets like Marks and Spencer and Tesco.
From a modest beginning, farming approximately 15 acres of strawberries, the family now also produces raspberries, blueberries and cherries across a much larger farm estate – which includes a farm shop and cafe.
The business employs more than 600 seasonal workers, and mainly grows fruit through the use of polytunnels.
Now, to boost their business, the Mitchells have applied for planning permission to replace the tunnels on the site of the former Fordoun Aerodrome, which was built during the Second World War.
Planning documents, submitted by Ryden PLC, state : “As part of their wider business development, the applicant is looking to modernise their operations and enhance growing abilities across their site.
“Part of this exercise shall include the provision of more modern polytunnels to replace
older polytunnels across the site.
“These are seen as a more effective and manageable farming apparatus than the existing polytunnels in use across the estate, as they offer a more durable, sustainable means of enhancing fruit growing operations.”
The proposed replacement models are specially designed for cold climates and offer a number of advantages for fruit farming compared with the current structures.
In addition, it is hoped they will also offer reduced maintenance costs.
Plans were in place for a public consultation last month, but the pandemic meant Castleton Fruit bosses instead took the process online.
In a video to the public, the company’s Ross Mitchell said: “We are continually looking at new and innovative ways to modernise and improve our growing operations.
“We are therefore proposing to replace our existing polytunnels with new modern greenhouses.”
He added: “We look forward to welcoming you back to Castleton Farm in the not too distant future.”