Vertical farm rollout offers green shoots for UK produce industry

12-10-2021    11:14   |    Farming Online

A new type of commercial ‘vertical farm’ could boost post-Brexit Britain’s ability to grow its own fresh produce.

Harvesting is now underway at developer Shockingly Fresh’s first vertical farm in Offenham, Worcestershire – with thousands of heads of lettuce and pak choi grown indoors in towers – and they are now planning the rollout of more farms country-wide.

The green-fingered entrepreneurs developed the 12,000 square metre system in partnership with salad growers Valefresco and indoor farming specialists Saturn Bioponics, whose low cost naturally lit vertical farms use hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles of fresh produce such as salads and herbs.  

Shockingly Fresh specialises in developing vertical farms from start to finish – from finding the right land, to designing the farm, securing planning permission and investment, right through to construction, commissioning and production if required. 

Unlike the majority of vertical farms, which use fully enclosed systems with heating and artificial light, Shockingly Fresh is promoting Saturn Biponic’s lower input, naturally lit approach which achieves most of the results at a fraction of the cost.

They calculate the increased output from their projects easily offsets the-set up costs, plus the enclosed environment means less pesticides and cleaner crops.   

“Vertical farming addresses head on some of the key challenges facing the UK food chain,” explains Shockingly Fresh Development Director Nick Green.

“Hydroponics allows us to grow salad crops throughout most of the year, reducing our reliance on EU imports. Each farm is suited to a variety of leafy greens as well as strawberries and herbs. This first farm will grow about two million heads of leafy greens a year – around four times the yield we would expect on a patch of land this size,” Green continues.

“This means the farms we are developing can not only grow more crops – it means we can grow crops for more of the year – extending our early and late season into times consumers would normally rely on salad imports from the EU. We also expect to see higher staff productivity, which will be critical in the years ahead. 

“This ability to ‘grow our own’ in a clean, controlled environment, not only increases food security – it’s fresher and needs less water to grow,” he concluded.

The firm is now forging ahead with its next, larger, site with further farms planned for the years ahead.

“We believe vertical farms will become an important part of the UK fresh produce supply chain,” Green concludes.

Source: Farming Online

Photo Courtesy of Agrotonomy

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