Vertical farming taking weather out of the equation

Vertical farming is seen as an exciting concept, in which to grow high quality produce without the worries of the weather and get more British produce on shelves.

And the sector is growing.

In 2018, vertical farming was worth $3 billion (£2.2bn) globally and it is predicted to grow to $22bn (£16bn) by 2026.


This is from a standing start, with no vertical farms in operation in 2010.

Baby leaves

Emma Burke is chief executive of Perfectly Fresh, a site in Alderley Edge, Cheshire, which is equivalent to 20 hectares of farmland and produces baby leaf for Marks & Spencer for both retail sale and as a sandwich ingredient.

“We are growing a premium product, our unique selling point is flavour, quality and shelf life," Ms Burke said.

“Traditional baby leaves are often imported from Italy, Spain and even the US. Vertical farming means that we can grow baby leaves and other crops in the UK all-year-round which previously were imported.

She believes vertical farming is part of the solution to feeding a growing global population in a sustainable way.

Using vertical farming and growing plants indoors under controlled conditions, produce can be grown all year round, using less land and in any location, from an office block to a desert.

Ms Burke said the future of vertical farming was ‘global’ with projections of an 11bn population by 2021.

“Our fragile planet simply does not have enough natural resources to meet this future consumption. Vertical farming is part of the solution to the global problems we all face,” she added.

Hydroponics

Preston-based firm Growpura is behind a new commercial-scale vertical hydroponics demonstrator facility to be based at Colworth Park in Bedfordshire.

The project, backed by a £4.5m Government grant, will use a ’simple but sophisticated’ vertical technology conveyor system to continually move plants past sources of light, irrigation and monitoring technology in a clean room environment.

Chief executive Nick Bateman said the innovative technology will improve product quality but importantly, generate flexibility as it can modulate plant growth to meet demand requirements.

He said: "The driver for this is to be more efficient, trying to reach net zero as quickly as possible.

"The ability to move the technology so we can make the most effective use of natural light reduces electricity use, so we can cut production costs.


Source: FG Insight