Scotland on the up in the field of vertical farming
Scotland yesterday cemented its position as a world leader in developing technologies and agronomics used in the fast-rising field of vertical farming.
The launch of the Innovation Hub for Controlled Environment Agriculture (IHCEA) at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee marked another step towards a more integrated collaboration in the development of such enterprises.
Designed to draw the different disciplines involved in the sector together and allow advances in technologies, plant breeding and systems improvements to be rigorously evaluated, the new facility is a joint venture between the farming technology company Liberty Produce and the Government funded Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) agri-tech centre.
The new hub is aimed at tackling current barriers to a more widespread adoption of vertical farming and speed up the development of a sector which has been predicted to be worth $10 billion by 2025.
Speaking after the launch, Zeina Chapman, co-founder and director of Liberty Produce said that allowing the various strands involved in the sector to come together in a holistic way against the backdrop of the knowledge and expertise available at the Hutton would give a big boost to the speed of developments in the discipline:
“In the past the technology aspects were often developed in isolation from the agronomic side - getting the two working together will speed up things up and ensure the best results are obtained.”
She added that training and demonstrations through the associated Future Farming Hub would further increase uptake.
Admitting that vertical farming might not yet be sustainable, Chapman said a partnership approach would help achieve that end: While the production of high-cost herbs and medicinal plants might be economically sustainable at the moment, we want to extend this to gain higher yields and cover a much wider range of crops.
“On the environmental front, while the control afforded through CEA means nutrients can be much better utilised, pesticides can reduced or eliminated and water can be recycled the energy inputs [in terms of heat and light] are still a factor.
“The greater vision of Liberty Produce remains driving innovation that will enable us to meet our global crop requirements without harming the planet.”