Vertical farming is key to the future of farming and will become a fundamental part of the overall agricultural ecosystem, but it will not take place of traditional farming.
Modern agriculture faces a number of challenges, which will only be exacerbated as climate and population conditions change. These include water scarcity, land-use and the problems associated with monoculture, the use of pesticides and their impacts on health and the natural environment due to their use. Vertical farming can help to alleviate these challenges.
Vertical farming has the serious potential to address areas of global agricultural and environmental need with a committed and innovative community driving its adoption.
Across the globe there are major challenges driving the need for a huge and urgent transformation in how we produce and distribute food. Populations are growing dramatically. It is predicted that the world population is expected to go from 7.6 billion today to 8.6 billion in2030, and 9.8 billion in 2050 (The World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision,published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affair). It is imperative that we find ways to feed this population easily, sustainably and with quality produce.
The mass adoption of indoor farming will be fundamental to achieving this. Crops can be grown closer to the point of consumption and/or distribution, so reducing freight costs and food miles whilst increasing shelf life and removing the need for damaging interventions such as washing lettuce all of which combine to deliver a significant decrease in wastage.
By growing crops closer to the market in controlled vertical farming conditions, it is possible to accurately predict and grow to market demand, resulting in a reduction in food waste.
Plants grown in a vertical farming environment should be free of pesticides; free of diesel-powered vehicles; water should be constantly recycled and crops not washed in chlorinated water. It eliminates crop losses due to weather, disease, drought and pests. It means we can grow healthier, more nutritious foods at economically viable prices.
The controlled environment has the capacity to control quality, taste and flavour, and enable fresher produce with a longer shelf life. The environment helps alleviate crop losses due to weather, disease, drought, or pests.
Vertical farming is the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers. The modern ideas of vertical farming use indoor farming techniques and total controlled-environment agriculture (TCEA) technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled to optimise plant growth.
The IGS demonstration facility is based at the James Hutton Institute, a world-renowned crop and plant science research facility. IGS and the Hutton collaborate closely to help advance the understanding of plant science for indoor growing.
Within our IGS team we employ a team of plant scientists who are working alongside our software and hardware teams to ensure our customers access to the best and most up to date information tailored to their requirements of operation and growing.
We’ve been awarded an ‘Outstanding’ award(the highest grade) from the UK Knowledge Transfer Partnership for work to further the understanding and efficiency of growing basil in a vertical farming environment.
With smaller land footprints required with the growing taking place in towers stacked vertically it offers greater flexibility on location and good arable land is not necessary. It also means that facilities can be built right next to consumers or customers and reduces the need for food miles and waste of produce as it can be grown to demand.
The IGS facilities have been constructed using limited materials - all selected to ensure longevity of operation. Built in a modular design to scale with production and capacity demand and replacement of damaged components. The materials used are from a number of different sources, many of which can be from recycled sources e.g. aluminium and steel, with minimal plastics and copper used.
IGS’ power and communications platform has demonstrated strong Demand Side Response (DSR) potential. This will lead to greater engagement in circular energy projects to utilise ‘spare’ energy for growing and allows for more renewable power sources to be adopted.
To reduce water consumption,we have developed a system to harvest rainwater,capture,recirculate and UV filter the water used within our facilities. We use minimal water within the growing process and the only water which leaves our farms is that contained within the plants.
We provide the power to control the indoor vertical farming environment better than our competitors in three fundamentally important areas:
We adopt the principles of Total Control Environment Agriculture (TCEA), in which all aspects of the growing environment can be controlled- light, temperature, humidity, irrigation,nutrition and even air composition. This makes it possible to eliminate variations in the growing environment, enabling growers to produce consistent, high quality crops all year round. Our system also offers control over plant disease and eliminates the need for pesticides, fungicides and biocides, which is not the case with glasshouse growing.
There is the potential for far greater yields in our system compared to growing in green houses. Typically a glass house is about 30kg/m2/annum but with our facility we were seeing closer to 60kg/m2/annum (100 percent increase) for basil. This does not take into consideration any wastage in the greenhouse environment through to the variations in climate, pest and disease as previously mentioned.
We typically achieve harvest weight/yield in60-70 per cent of the time it takes in a glasshouse. This means we can run up to 50% more growing cycles per annum.
The use of TCEA means that the optimum growth conditions can be communicated digitally to other growth systems anywhere in the world through networked systems which greatly improves the effectiveness and productivity potential of the systems, as well as quality and yield of the produce. This is not something that is achievable in glasshouse environments currently.
Compared to many other indoor environments the benefits of our system include:
No, our systems have been designed to have simplicity at the core. They can be managed remotely using a mobile phone app and with a greater level of data collection and monitoring than any other agricultural system. This helps make it an easier and more manageable system for farmers with no specialist expertise required.
We offer solutions for:
· Traditional farmers and growers looking to grow high value crops at scale all year long.
· Farming entrepreneurs who want to serve local communities, restaurants, hotels, venues or even retailers.
· Governments focused on greater food security, wanting to deliver high quality, safe and nutritious food to their population and communities.
· Food producers that want top quality fresh ingredients grown to better-than-organic standards at affordable prices.
· Consumer food businesses looking to source high quality produce, close to point of consumption and to demand.
· Pharmaceutical organisations which are looking for closely controlled crop production which allows for enhancement of plant characteristics and free from chemicals or pests.
No. We will not sell plant produce now or in the future. We supply the technology, infrastructure, training to set up and operate totally controlled environment vertical farms. We will then provide further data and software updates for successful ‘growth recipes’ which can be used to produce consistently good crops time after time.
The IGS system can grow a variety of herbs, brassicas and leafy greens. Our system can also propagate an ever-widening range of early stage crops including brassicas and soft fruits.