Young horticulturalist's business devastated by freak tornado

PhD completed, Tobias Lane was building his own horticulture research business in Hampshire.  Now he needs help as his glass houses were devastated by a freak tornado.

This is his story…

Recently my business (Somborne Valley Research Ltd) was hit by a freak tornado which caused significant damage to the glasshouse and polytunnel facilities. The story has been covered by BBC South today (see video) and the Hampshire Chronicle.

Somborne Valley Research Ltd is a small, independent horticultural/agricultural research business which helps companies develop and trial new products. See more at Horticultural Trials and Research - Somborne Valley Research Ltd

One of our main focus areas is the Garden Industry, trialling new products, varieties and substrates for the garden centre market and producers.

Glasshouse destroyed

The glasshouse, which was still under construction, was destroyed and the polytunnel structure was twisted and pulled out of the ground despite the large anchor plates buried two feet underground to protect against storm damage.

The sliding doors at the end of the tunnel where the tornado first struck were twisted up over the top of the tunnel and one was broken off entirely, later discovered 500m up the road where the tornado had continued its path of destruction. Mature trees around the site were broken in half with one large copper beech branch carried 45m through the air before landing.

The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation visited the site and confirmed it was a tornado which caused the damage. They have been tracking the course of it for miles across Hampshire and are compiling a report which they will send to me in due course.

My own allotment at 13

I built the facilities myself, on land which I lease, during my spare time for the past six years whilst completing my PhD in Horticulture. I have had a keen interest in horticulture from a young age when I started out with my own allotment at 13 and it has always been my passion to run my own business.

Now that my PhD has finished, I had been planning to take my business full time from the start of the next growing season, however after the damage caused it is going to be a race against time to get it back up and running if I’m able to.

Not able to be insured

The facilities had not been able to be insured as the glasshouse was designed using second-hand structures and was not yet completed, so had no business value. The brick base however was designed and built with these specific structures in mind (which took approximately three years to source second-hand), so a replacement will have to be made-to-measure which will be extremely costly.

It’s gut-wrenching to see all the hard work undone and shocking given the total absence of damage from the considerable Storm Eunice earlier in the year. It’s just incredibly unlucky that the fairly narrow path of destruction that the tornado carved had to pass right through my business. I’m just very glad I wasn’t there at the time, as it would likely have been a far more tragic story given the force of the storm and all the metal that was flying around!

A gofundme page

A gofundme page has been setup to help with the rebuild costs:

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