British vertical farming business opens 'world's most advanced vertical farm'

By Bethan Grylls

- Last updated on GMT

Two Jones Food Company (JFC) employees inspecting produce at JFC2, said to be the world’s most advanced vertical farm, opening this week in Gloucestershire
Two Jones Food Company (JFC) employees inspecting produce at JFC2, said to be the world’s most advanced vertical farm, opening this week in Gloucestershire

Related tags Investment Sustainability Agriculture

Jones Food Company has expanded, opening a second vertical farm in Gloucestershire, which it claims is the world's most advanced vertical farm and one of the largest.

This follows the opening of the company’s first vertical farm in Lincolnshire six years ago, and more recently, its dedicated innovation centre in Bristol in 2022.

The new Jones Food Company site, based near Lydney and coined the 'JFC2', is its largest site with a growing space is 14,448sqm (3.6 acres).

It uses 100% renewably sourced energy to grow crops vertically. This includes basil, coriander, flat leaf parsley, dill, green and red lettuce, Baby Leaf Pak Choi, Bulls Blood, Mizuana, Komatsuna (Japanese Spinach), and Baby Leaf Cress (a variety of watercress).

Speaking on the opening, its founder and chief executive officer, James Lloyd-Jones said the farm represents “a coming of age for agricultural technology in the UK”.

He added: “We have now cracked the code for accessible, sustainable, premium food being grown all-year round, at a super-competitive price. Commercial success in this sector has always been the challenge, but this farm smashes it.”

Raising the difficulties of vertical farming, he went onto say that while there is a place for small, urban vertical farms, size, scale and affordability will be how the ‘vertical revolution’ triumphs.

“Technology and sustainability, when married at this kind of scale, revolutionise food production, combat climate change, ensure food security, address labour issues and maximise efficiency. It’s a win-win-win-win.”

While a lot of vertical farms have been focused on lights when it comes to energy saving and were not so long ago in the headlines around their vulnerability to electricity prices, JFC’s head of growing, Glyn Stephens, said temperature and humidity are more of a focus for them.

“Temperature and humidity control are where the real energy guzzle has traditionally been; this is why it's been a core focus for us opening this new site, its small changes and learnings from JFC1 [first site] that mean this system now accounts for a much smaller proportion of our energy usage,”​ Stephens explained.

He continued: “Irrigation is another massive innovation in this farm and the system in JFC2 is boundary-pushing, ground-breaking, utterly unique and another key brick in how we deliver premium product, at a great price, at scale.

“These aren’t small steps, they are giant leaps which allow us to put ‘vertical farming and profitability’ into the same sentence for the first time!”

Ocado, which has been a long-term partner of the vertical farming business (since 2019) has assisted with the development of JFC's farms, including investments of both cash and technical know-how.

"The recent launch of the salads into Ocado Retail is a natural extension of this relationship,"​ Lloyd-Jones told Food Manufacture.  

Ocado's CFO, Stephen Daintith, added that this latest investment represents a significant step forward in an exciting space: “At Ocado Group, we are passionate about the long-term potential of vertical farming for both the food industry and for the environment.

“We are confident in JFC's leadership and on their ability to execute on their vision - we look forward to supporting them on the way ahead."

JFC2’s output now includes supplying own-label herbs, as well as the company’s own Homegrown range of mixed salad bags and Lēaf, its range of sauces and salad bags.

In other news, we hear from some food and drink producers on how they're taking on emissions to hit net zero targets. Read the exclusive article here.

Related topics Fresh produce Environment

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