Innovate UK-funded project to boost strawberry plant yield
Added on 05 September 2023
The project will grow strawberry plants (propagules) in vertical farms before being transplanted into glasshouses or polytunnels. These high-health plants can produce 40% higher yield, allowing farmers to grow more strawberries in the same growing area. The increased fruit productivity will be driven by controlled environmental conditions such as temperature, relative humidity and light to optimise flower induction and plant development, which can enhance production in polytunnels.
85% of UK-produced strawberries are grown on imported plants, and vertical farming has the potential to displace these imports by enabling plants to be available to farmers all year round. Using vertical farms to grow strawberry plants (propagules), more plants will be grown in the UK, thanks to a controlled environment guaranteeing supply. The increased yields that these new home-grown plants promise, will allow UK growers to take a larger share of the strawberry market. Each year, the UK imports 186 million pounds worth of strawberries (2020) accounting for 32% of the market.
The three-year project will research new methods to produce high-quality, high-yield and disease-free strawberry plants within a vertical farm environment for onward cropping in polytunnels, glasshouses and vertical farms. This will guarantee quality produce all year round, reducing the UK’s reliance on imported goods and increasing revenues for the UK strawberry industry.
With the rising fears of global food insecurity caused by the rapidly rising global population, extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, along with political factors such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Brexit, maximising the amount of locally grown fresh produce through technology-based innovations is imperative in reducing the economic and environmental costs affecting the agriculture industry. The unreliable nature of the UK weather limits effective and efficient propagation, making advanced vertical farming an ideal environment for producing consistently high-quality strawberry plants.
To deliver the project, Vertical Future is working in partnership with various agri-tech and berry industry leaders. The partners are, the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB), the University of Reading, Berry Gardens Growers Limited, Hugh Lowe Farms, Clock House Farm, Linton Growers, Blaise Plants, Delta-T Devices, and Cocogreen.
Photo: Vertical Future.