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Owner of Hawkens Gingerbread, of Grantham, announces plans for UK’s first-ever crop of ginger on farm near Bourne





A town business is leading efforts to spark a food revolution here in Lincolnshire by growing an exotic spice in the UK for the first time.

Alastair Hawken, the owner of Hawkens Gingerbread, in Grantham, believes he is close to a breakthrough in his two-year mission to produce the first gingerbread to be totally grown, raised, and baked in the UK.

Like most spices, ginger typically grows in hot climates and has to be imported from countries such as Nigeria and China.

Alastair Hawken launched his gingerbread business in Grantham in 2009
Alastair Hawken launched his gingerbread business in Grantham in 2009

But, with the help of several big players in the UK food industry, Alastair believes a first crop could be harvested from a farm near Bourne by the end of next year.

“The last two years have been about understanding if we can achieve this,” he said.

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“I’m pretty certain we can, but it was about bringing partners in to get it off the ground and push it forward.

Polytunnels are being constructed near Bourne to grow the ginger
Polytunnels are being constructed near Bourne to grow the ginger

“All of this has started to come together.

“It’s a really exciting moment because it’s the first time this has ever been done, and to be doing it in Lincolnshire is testament to the expertise we have in the county.”

Alastair hit upon the idea when wondering how to cut his business’ carbon footprint.

With no ginger grown in the UK previously, the planting stock has to be grown before the crop can be established.
With no ginger grown in the UK previously, the planting stock has to be grown before the crop can be established.

Virtually all of his ingredients needed for his prized gingerbread recipe were already sourced in the UK except, crucially, for the ginger which comes from China.

“We’ve always been reliant on importing our exotic spices,” he said.

“I decided to challenge the status quo - why can’t we grow spices in the UK? The more I researched it, the more I thought ‘I think we can actually do this’.

“We are now growing watermelons here for the first time for Tesco, so why can’t we grow ginger?”

Alastair set about baking with no recipe, experimenting and refining until he hit upon the finished product
Alastair set about baking with no recipe, experimenting and refining until he hit upon the finished product

While his idea initially fell on deaf ears, Alastair was spurred on by a chat with Lincolnshire-based horticulture advisor Paul Ward and a fact-finding mission to Kew Gardens’ palm house - the only place in the UK to grow ginger.

Baston-based Thetford Farm Estate agreed to host the trials on land near Bourne.

Alastair says the project has also secured support from innovation and research agency, Innovate UK, the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership’s UK Food Valley programme, and the University of Lincoln’s agritech department.

He has been germinating ginger for the last two months which he hopes to then transfer to polytunnels.

These will then replicate the exacting conditions the spice needs to thrive.

“We don’t have any ginger planting stock in the UK so we’re having to create our own,” he explained.

“Ginger is a tropical plant which grows at the bottom of the tree canopy.

“To thrive it needs relative humidity of about 85, 90 per cent, it needs temperatures of about 25 degrees, not too hot, and it needs dappled shade.”

Alastair wants to use a hydroponics system - growing plants using water-based mineral nutrient solutions instead of soil - to potentially shorten its growth window from nine months to five and improve yields.

“This summer is about bringing partners together, understanding what we need, and to grow our base stock,” he said.

“In 2025 we will see the hydroponic system going together and our first test yield.

“By Christmas 2025 we will have our first UK crop harvested which is quite exciting, and we have solar dehydrators being built in Lincolnshire which will be used to dehydrate the product.”

To further maximise sustainability, he plans to power the project ‘off-grid’ using green energy, keeping the temperatures up in winter and cooling it in the heat of summer.

“It’s not a vanity project, it’s a commercial enterprise,” he said.

“It’s cheaper to import and buy it in, but what is the inherent cost to the planet? That is the conscience tester.

“It’s taken the country a long time, we have been discussing climate change for 30 or 40 years, but now it really is something that we can’t avoid.”

He added: “Agriculture recognises that things need to change. We have to be honest and creative and think differently.”

If successful, Alastair, who launched Hawkens Gingerbread in 2009, believes this could be the tip of the iceberg and lead to other spices being cultivated here, such as turmeric.

“It won’t be straightforward I’m absolutely certain,” he admitted.

“There will be pitfalls and hurdles which we will have to get over to really get this going, but to start with it’s small steps.

“You’ve got to have the passion, the determination and the enthusiasm to do it.”



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