Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) will be the first higher education institute in Scotland to open a vertical farm for research and education.
It will build the half million-pound facility at its King’s Buildings campus in Edinburgh next year.
The project, which has received a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Government, will be used in key research into plant and crop science and will also be used by students.
The facility will grow nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables that have specific human health qualities. It will also analyse crop yield and growth rates with all resource inputs to compare their carbon footprint to other production systems.
It will operate on renewable energy sources from the national grid, supported by battery technology to manage peaks in energy demand.
With only a handful of commercial vertical farms in Scotland, the facility will be important for demonstration and knowledge exchange with farmers, growers and small businesses, giving vital support and promoting innovation.
Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, said: “As we look to produce more fruits and vegetables locally, vertical farming could provide us with a way to make better use of our land. It’s an exciting and innovative field that could bring us real benefits and it is important that we have the skills in Scotland to take advantage of this technology.
“By supporting the industry at an early stage, we can assess these benefits and help to focus our long-term strategy. We will also be reaching out to the wider industry to explore in further detail the opportunities low-carbon vertical farming offers. We will work together to establish the future of vertical farming in Scotland.”
Professor Wayne Powell, principal and chief executive of SRUC, said: “One of the most critical challenges we face is how to feed a growing global population. We have been teaching farmers for generations but, as the population increases, it is important that we look at growing different, more nutritious crops to support healthy diets and local access to food.
“Not only will this vertical farming unit be a valuable asset to our students, but it will also provide us with important data to help optimise and promote innovation into this expanding industry.”
The project will be going out to tender in the coming weeks.