A purpose-built vertical farm is being constructed in Scotland for full-scale crop trials to test which plants grow best in an indoor farming environment.
Intelligent Growth Solutions is an indoor horticultural business on a mission to make vertical farming commercially viable by enabling its licensees to be the lowest cost producers.
One of the major challenges is making vertical farming commercially viable through reduced power and labour costs.
IGS is currently constructing the vertical farm at the James Hutton Institute close to Dundee and its on track for completion in the next few months.
It’s being hailed as the UK’s first commercially viable vertical growing environment and involves a collaboration with global automation business Omron, which has a successful history of inventing several disruptive everyday systems that are used all over the world.
These include the world’s first automated traffic signal, the basis of today’s magnetic card systems and through collaborations, Omron also introduced the digital blood pressure monitor and digital thermometer.
IGS is working with Omron on the automation aspects of the project which are vital to hit efficiency and productivity targets. Omron will control and monitor the stacking system, LED lighting and the hydroponics systems.
Further down the line, it is expected every feature of the facility will be automated.
“Vertical farming allows us to provide the exact environmental conditions necessary for optimal plant growth,” says Henry Aykroyd, IGS CEO.
“By adopting the principles of Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA), a system in which all aspects of the growing environment can be controlled, it is possible to eliminate variations in the growing environment, enabling the grower to produce consistent, high quality crops with minimal wastage, in any location, all year round.”
“A highly integrated automation strategy, patented energy reduction technology and the most advanced biological research available will be the three key pillars to success in this project,” he adds. “Partnering with two leading experts Omron and the James Hutton Institute to deliver this provides the very best opportunity for a new approach to vertical farming.”
Professor Colin Campbell, chief executive of the James Hutton Institute, is delighted with the progress of the facility (pictured).
“This initiative combines our world-leading knowledge of plant science at the James Hutton Institute and IGS entrepreneurship to develop efficient ways of growing plants on a small footprint with low energy and water input,” he says.
And Omron field sales engineer Kassim Okera says the vertical farm represents the company’s pioneering ethos of creating innovative solutions for the future.
“Omron’s unique integrated product offering and Sysmac platform combined with extensive market experience, underpin the most innovative vertical farm in the UK which has the potential to be the first vertical farm in the world that is economically viable,” he says.