A consortium of four British companies, comprising UK Urban AgriTech (UKUAT), Intelligent Growth Solutions Ltd, RheEnergise, and James Hutton Institute, has received a grant from the UK Government to advance the development of low-carbon and low-cost food production.
Specifically, the V-FAST consortium’s £488K project will explore how co-locating energy storage (RheEnergise’s HD Hydro Energy Storage system) with vertical farms can support a low-emission route to growing protein-rich crops in a controlled environment. The grant from Innovate UK/BBSRC is £370,000, with the project partners providing the remaining £118,000.
“The V-FAST project is a great opportunity to establish routes to sustainability for vertical farming. The Advanced Plant Growth Centre, hosted at the James Hutton Institute, has reported previously on the significant sustainability of produce produced in vertical farms when linked to renewable energy, and in V-FAST, we will be able to mine this further by looking at production under existing and future blended energy sources,” shares Professor Derek Stewart, Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre at The James Hutton Institute.
Co-locating vertical farms with renewables
Last year, V-FAST – Vertical Farming And Storage Technologies – started investigating sites in Scotland’s Central Belt for the location of Scotland’s next generation of hectare+ scale vertical farms, powered by 100% renewables and using RheEnergise’s High-Density Hydro energy storage system. These farms would provide locally produced fresh foods (salads and fruits) to over 60% of the Scottish population and help meet the Scottish Government’s ambitions to produce more homegrown fruit and vegetables. These site investigations in Scotland continue.
Now, with the Innovate UK and BBSRC funding as part of the Novel Low Emission Food Production Systems competition, V-FAST will broaden the area for its site feasibility studies across the UK, using GIS to identify and rate suitable locations for vertical farms that are co-located with renewables and High-Density Hydro® energy storage. As part of the project, V-FAST will also undertake crop trials to establish optimal climate recipes in terms of their energy efficiency relative to production metrics (e.g., protein per kWh or kg of CO2e).
“We are delighted that Innovate UK and BBSRC recognize the value and huge potential of our work. Each new V-FAST vertical farm would provide high-quality food at a lower cost than can be achieved by a typical indoor farm drawing energy from the local grid. Supplying lower-cost food, at a time when everyone is concerned with inflation, is our main objective,” says Mark Horler, Chairman of UKUAT.
Maximising efficiency of land use
“One-hectare scale vertical farm can provide premium fresh produce for a year for a town of 10,000 homes, and one RheEnergise project can provide the energy storage needs for a town of the same size. Each site would host wind, solar, energy storage, and vertical farming all in one place, often utilizing the same footprint to maximize the efficiency of land use. Furthermore, V-FAST can utilize lower quality land, which is not ideal for traditional farming,” comments Stephen Crosher, RheEnergise’s CEO.
“IGS is proud to be partnering with James Hutton Institute & Rheenergise to advance crop research with the V-FAST project. This interdisciplinary alignment of Vertical Farming technology, Renewable energy, and academic research is a futuristic collaborative approach aimed at developing cutting-edge tools and processes that will help drive the UK Ag industry forward. We are excited to be part of this project,” remarks Tanveer Khan, Head of Science at IGS.
The funded consortium is itself part of a wider collaboration which also includes Vertegrow, Light Source Technologies, LettUs Grow, and Sprung Structures.