Midland ‘vertical farm’ gets green light from planners

A green-fingered start-up plans to fast-track a raft of indoor ‘vertical farms’ across the UK – which can grow up to five times as many greens as traditional farms.

Developers Shockingly Fresh have just received planning permission for a 1.2ha site near Offenham in Worcestershire for their low cost naturally-lit ‘vertical farm’ – which uses special hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles of green veg such as salads and herbs.

The specialist firm has approval from Wychavon DistrictCouncil to build a state-of-the-art 11,899 square metre greenhouse on the site in partnership with indoor farming specialists Saturn Bioponics and nationwide salad growers Valefresco.

The farm will be completed this summer and will then start producing crops shortly thereafter.

The Shockingly Fresh team is now planning a rapid roll out of their indoor farms – with plans to develop more than 40 projectsUK-wide in their first five years.

“The Midlands are ideal for vertical farming and we are really excited about delivering our first site here,” says Garth Bryans, COO at Shockingly Fresh.

“The climate is good, there is a well-established horticulture sector and it is close to major markets and road networks, so it makes sense for us to begin our roll out plans here.

“We have identified a significant market – particularly around the early and late season ‘shoulder months’ – which is currently filled by imported crops from Europe. We believe a raft of sites across the country will enable British growers to compete on a level field,” Bryans says.

They calculate the increased output from their projects will easily offsets the-set up costs, plus the enclosed environment will mean less pesticides and cleaner crops, they say.

Edinburgh-based Shockingly Fresh is already developing a number of sites countrywide – and is keen to speak to landowners and investors to further accelerate their expansion.

“We have partnered with hydroponic specialists Saturn Bioponics which supplies all of the equipment and we are focussed on raising finance, finding sites and securing planning consent,” Bryans says.

Unlike the majority of vertical farms, which use fully enclosed systems with heating and artificial light, Shockingly Fresh is promoting Saturn’s lower input, naturally lit approach which they say achieves most of the results at a fraction of the cost.

“We selected Saturn’s technology because their set-up requires far less up-front capital than a fully-enclosed vertical farm yet delivers most of the benefits which are already driving the high demand for hydroponically-produced crops” Bryans says.

“This means we can quickly build a portfolio of fully-developed vertical farms to the market – and we believe this will appeal to both site owners and specialist growers.

“If our plans develop as we hope, then vertical farms will become an important part of the UK vegetable supply chain,” Bryans concludes.

 

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.