Vertical farms key to future food security in the UK

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Vertical farm could be the solution to the UK's food security concerns. Pictured: Dr William Stiles of Aberystwyth University
Vertical farm could be the solution to the UK's food security concerns. Pictured: Dr William Stiles of Aberystwyth University

Related tags Agriculture

Growing crops indoors could be key to ensuring the future of food security, according to a new research project led by Aberystwyth University.

Academics at the university have been exploring how to make vertical farming more affordable in collaboration with experts in the industry.

Dr William Stiles from the Department of Life Sciences at Aberystwyth University and lead on the project said: “We know we need this technology – it’s vital to tackle potential food insecurity because of our changing climate.

“Vertical farming could be a key part of our future food production systems. One of the aspects we are looking at is the ability to switch food production into controlled environments at speed. We need to look at the technology and work to make it affordable and articulate a road map of what that future could look like.

The cusp of revolution

“The vertical farming sector currently faces significant challenges as it transitions from technological infancy into the mainstream. It remains on the cusp of revolutionising food production, particularly for items too challenging to grow in this country’s existing agricultural system.”

The Vertical Farming project is led by Aberystwyth University and also involves Cardiff Metropolitan University, Swansea University and vertical farming kit provider Vertikit. It is one of 16 research projects across Welsh universities to be funded by the Wales Innovation Network’s (WIN’s) small grant fund.  

Lewis Dean, head of WIN, said: “The quality of bids in this year’s round of the small grant fund has been encouraging to see, with universities working together to submit very strong applications. I’m delighted that we have been able to award over £100,000 through our small grant fund to support collaborative research in Wales.”

Vertical farming in the UK

The past few years have seen major investments being made into vertical farming projects all over the UK. Just two months ago saw Jones Food Company open a second vertical farm in Gloucestershire,​ which it claimed was the world's most advanced vertical farm and one of the largest.

Removing the need for vast swathes of farmland means that vertical farms can pop up anywhere, with projects such as Farm Urban converting abandoned warehouses in city centres for controlled environment agriculture.

Some food manufacturers have even leveraged the technology to shorten their supply chains and reduce food miles. In 2021, sausage maker Heck installed a new vertical farm to grow herbs and vegetables for its Italia and Veg with Edge product lines as part of a £3.5m expansion of its Kirklington factory.

Related topics Supply Chain Fresh produce

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