Shockingly Fresh, a Scottish start-up has plans to develop more than 40 vertical farms in the UK and has recently received planning permission for its first site, a 1.2 Ha glasshouse near Offenham in Worcestershire.
Most people are familiar with the concept of Vertical Farming (VF) – growing produce on a small footprint of land by building up or, indeed, down. These types of setup often lend themselves well to areas where land is at a premium or existing infrastructure is underutilised and can be repurposed. VF methods typically involve growing in a closed environment, usually due to lack of natural light, as ‘greenhouses’ can range from underground tunnels to vertically stacked, windowless containers. However, in collaboration with Saturn Bioponics, an indoor farming specialist, and salad grower Valefresco, Shockingly Fresh will use a more conventional approach to grow produce hydroponically.
It is expected that by using natural light instead of energy-intensive grow lamps, set-up costs will be considerably lower than typical VF methods, while most of the production benefits can still be achieved. The enclosed growing environment should also require less use of pesticides and water.
The Midlands is a favourable location, offering a good growing climate, well-established horticulture sector and connectivity to the rest of the country. The aim is to be able to satisfy market demand in the spring and autumn, which is currently met by imported produce from Europe.
Overall, it is believed that this type of hydroponic vertical farm can offer an attractive return on investment through increased output and methods which are more cost-effective than traditional UK farming.
GrowSave, a knowledge exchange programme run by NFU Energy and AHDB, helps farmers and growers to save energy. To find out more about GrowSave, go to www.ahdb.org.uk/growsave or call on 024 7669 6512.