Yorkshire engineers turn warehouse into high-tech herb farm

An East Yorkshire business has transformed an empty industrial unit into a high-tech indoor farming space dedicated to growing fresh herbs which can be delivered to restaurants in London within hours of harvesting, all year round.

The new vertical farm, based in the capital, is being operated by Harvest London, a company dedicated to overcoming difficulties in sourcing herbs and vegetables 12 months a year by producing them in specially-built controlled environments.

The project has come to fruition after a year in planning and development, led by specialists at Newport-based horticultural engineering firm CambridgeHOK.

The industrial unit in Leyton has been converted into a 1,646 sq ft (of grow area) facility where herbs can be grown in perfect conditions across four levels.

The grow room is controlled by automated climate and irrigation systems to aid production and maximise growth, using energy-saving LED lighting.

First produce off the racks will be basil, of which the farm can grow around seven tonnes a year, with the major benefits being guaranteed quality of product and locality to customers.

The first full crop is almost ready to be harvested just four weeks after being planted, with the sophisticated system enabling the Harvest London team to control climate remotely via their mobile phones, and analyse data on yield and growing capacity.

Jason Tether, project manager at CambridgeHOK, said: “It has been a very rewarding to work with a grower dedicated to ensuring food is grown much closer to customers and the point of consumption, helping uphold the quality of product and reducing food wastage.”

As well as the grow room, CambridgeHOK constructed a harvesting room and production management area, where crops will be processed and made ready for collection and delivery.

The building also includes separate office, kitchens, and restroom spaces.

Matt Chlebek, chief agronomist at Harvest London, inset, said: “We started the business having spoken to local chefs about providing freshly grown herbs just a few miles from their kitchens, thereby reducing the distance and time from production to consumption. This was something they were excited about.

“We have worked with a number of restaurants in London over the past two years who have become excellent customers and as a result of that success we wanted to improve further and become more sophisticated in what we are doing.

“That is why we turned to CambridgeHOK, and we are delighted that we did.”

He added: “We can certainly look to increase the number of restaurants we supply now, and ask chefs what herbs they want us to grow, and when.

“The plan is to demonstrate the increasing demand at this facility and secure further investment to create more, larger Vertical Farms across London in the coming years.”

Source: Yorkshire Post