Scotland’s role in the advancement of the vertical farming movement took another step forward yesterday with the launch of a new research and development facility at the James Hutton Institute campus at Invergowrie.
Farm technology company, Liberty Produce, unveiled a £500,000 Innovation Hub for Controlled Environment Agriculture (IHCEA) which is intended to tackle some of the issues surrounding the establishment and cost of vertical farming, and help accelerate the development of sustainable food production through fully-controlled systems.
Liberty Produce Co-Founder and Director, Zeina Chapman said initial research on the site was focused on increasing yield – one of the big issues with vertical farms – and decreasing the capital and operational costs of state-of-the-art agriculture.
She added: “At the moment vertical farming is only viable for high-value crops such as herbs and micro greens. The large volume crops such as leafy salads are sill more expensive under this sort of system than being grown in the ground.”
She added that initial research would focus on the development of intense, energy-efficient lighting systems and integrated water cooling,
The hub was funded by Innovate UK through the agri-tech centre, Crop Health and Protection (CHAP). CHAP chief executive, Fraser Black said it was a prime example of the mission to harness game-changing ideas to solve the problems being faced by the farming industry.
“This is a progressive step in our ambition is enable the United Kingdom to become a global leader in controlled environment agriculture and augment the production of healthy food in a sustainable way,” he said.
JHI chief executive, Professor Colin Campbell described the collaboration with CHAP and Liberty Produce as a “fabulous” day for the campus.
He added: “It marks the next step in the growth of the Institute’s Open Science Campus initiative and brings new innovative companies to work closely with world leading science.
“This has been facilitated by Tay Cities Deal announcement to create an Advanced Plant Growth centre at Invergowrie and our other new investments there and builds on our track record of engaging with industry, research partners and the public.”
The JHI site already hosts Intelligent Growth Solutions Ltd (IGS) a vertical farming company which has won significant investment funding since it was launched last year.