A new herb producer, based
in Scunthorpe, expects to harvest its first crop within the next week according
Jones Food Company’s
vertical farm is designed to produce 400 to 500 tonnes of crop each year
including basil, chives, coriander and dill. It is based in a ‘secret’
warehouse near the Lincolnshire town and the crops are handled automatically by
a robot known as Frank. In fact there are only four staff, none of whom
actually touch the plants.
It’s claimed that the
Scunthorpe facility includes more layers of production than other UK ‘vertical
farms’ with a total production area of 5,120 sq. m and 7.6 miles of LED
lighting, which have been supplied by GE Current and tested by company founder
Dr Paul Challinor at his home. The first crop has reportedly already been sold
to an anonymous buyer.
Malcolm Yare, horticulture
business development manager for GE Current, said, “There’s nearly no human
intervention during the whole production cycle. The lighting is at the heart of
Research supported by Agri-Tech Cornwall at the University of Plymouth has proposed using ‘factory conditions’ such as those achieved with indoor farming techniques as a way to protect crops from the negative impacts of climate change.
A new project, known as Plant Factory Cornwall, aims to use artificial lighting powered by solar energy to create the best possible conditions for fruit and vegetable production. The scientists believe it will reduce the stresses that plants face in normal conditions, while improving global food security and reducing food miles.
Professor of Plant Physiology Mick Fuller, an expert in the use of technology to improve crop production, said, “The positive health benefits of fruit and vegetables are well known, as is the need to double food production in order to meet the demands of a growing population. But how do you do that when climate change, as we have seen this summer, means we cannot rely on having the right conditions for crops to thrive every year? That is where facilities like the Plant Factory come in.”
The facility will be located on the University campus, within a multi-tier production unit constructed in partnership with Penzance-based company SolaGrow. According to the University, the solar-powered LED lights can be individually programmed to give a precise light recipe for each species.
Professor Fuller added, “In recent years many farmers have used redundant buildings or land to diversify away from farming. But this could offer them an affordable way to diversify back into crop production. There really is no limit to the size or scale of these facilities.”
Photo Caption: The project will monitor each plant’s responses to the lighting conditions.
Bristol-based start up company LettUs Grow, which attracted funding via Crowfunder, has completed the installation of its ‘aeroponic hardware’ at Grow Bristol.
According to the company, ‘the baton has now been passed to the “growing team” of biologists and environmental scientists to demonstrate how rapidly this hardware can grow tasty leafy greens, strawberries, and much more, over the new year.’
In trials LettUs grow says that it has produced pea shoots in half the time of comparable aquaponic systems. The company adds that its strong R&D focused partnership with Grow Bristol, has resulted in the broad deployment of both its aeroponic hardware and farm management software; both of which is focused on improving productivity and crop quality, whilst making the indoor farm simpler to operate.
Alongside growing plants, the management team has also been focused on growing the business, including completion of the three-month Bethnal Green Ventures program of advice and investment with a demo-day on 29 November.
Photo Caption: So far the use of the LettUs Grow equipment has focused on the production of microgreens
A £2.5 million investment by the James Hutton Institute and Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) means that the first vertical farm in the UK will be built near Invergowrie.
The high-tech facility will produce crops such as lettuce, baby leaf and micro-greens using technology such as hydroponics and LED lighting. It will feature automated towers and complex software which will take the cheapest electricity from the grid at times of surplus. Although some commentators have expressed doubts about the commercial viability of such facilities, the developers say that they expect production costs to fall quickly.
Henry Aykroyd, chief executive of IGS, said, “Our mission is to enable our customers to be the lowest cost producers by growing local globally, with better quality and saving natural resources. The process uses little water, no pesticides, can enhance taste and is consistent all year round.”
Growing Underground, which produces micro greens and salad leaves in a disused London tube station near Clapham North is to start supplying online organic produce supplier Farmdrop.
Growing Underground, uses hydroponic systems and LED technology to grow salad crops, will begin providing Farmdrop with produce when it starts trading this summer. According to the company 37 suppliers currently use the Farmdrop network, which gives London consumers access to a virtual market that sources 75 per cent of its produce inside the M25.
Ben Patten, who runs Farmdrop, commented, “Farmdrop.co.uk is rapidly bringing field-fresh produce to the doorsteps of London homes, restoring the days of the City’s streets filled with the sounds of street traders. Asparagus, wild garlic, globe artichokes and rhubarb fresh from local fields are among the hundreds of local foods available for delivery.”
Farmdrop operates hubs in London to which suppliers deliver four days a week. Most of that produce is shipped out to homes and other collection points throughout London on the same day via electric vans and there are plans to expand the service to other cities and towns, within the next 18 months.