Worcestershire’s vertical farming industry gets a boost

Professor Roy Kennedy leading a tour[4]

Worcestershire’s growing vertical farming industry got a boost recently thanks to an event hosted by Pershore College.

A two-day masterclass exploring all aspects of this innovative method of growing crops in vertically stacked layers was attended by over twenty businesses, academics and individuals. Those who attended got to hear talks and presentations from leading industry experts in the fields of hydroponics, aquaculture and water filtration.

It also included a talk and tour of the college’s vertical farming educational facilities by Professor Roy Kennedy who leads the Agri-Tech Research Centre.

The event was the first in a series of free specialist business support initiatives organised by GrowAgri Worcestershire, a £2 million economic development project delivered by the college in partnership the European Regional Development Fund.

Launched in November 2019, the programme is tasked with supporting the development of the county’s agritech sector and participation is open to eligible small to medium-sized Worcestershire businesses.

Nigel Haines, owner of Wise Water Solutions, a specialist supplier of irrigation equipment and associated products based in Broomhall, said: “I found the two-day event thought provoking, allowing insight into other companies’ issues and problem-solving regarding their waste streams and how they deal with them.

“The seminars covered a lot of useful topics and the networking opportunities were invaluable as they introduced us to local businesses involved at all stages of the vertical farming industry, and gave us the opportunity to discuss the issues with them.

“The information gathered will allow us to move forward in achieving our aims to look into developing markets, so we can apply our patented UV technology in the treatment of turbid liquids and odour control.”

Vertical farming technologies have experienced a recent revival as the world faces issues surrounding an ever-growing population and climate change, resulting in an increased focus on producing food sustainably.

Growing crops vertically uses a smaller area of land, and soilless techniques such as hydroponics and aquaponics promises more nutrition, higher levels of productivity and is more sustainable through lower water usage.

GrowAgri Project Manager, Mark Harwood-Browne said: “The team is delighted that our first specialist agri-tech event generated so much interest from a wide variety of businesses and individuals from Worcestershire and beyond.

“Those who attended told us it was really beneficial and has increased their knowledge and understanding of vertical farming and its huge potential. They were particularly interested to see vertical farming in action in our fully enclosed hydroponic chamber and outdoor system. It was great to see so many businesses in the room working together to transform our food system through innovation.”

Marco Lizzul, innovation manager at Varicon Aqua, a designer and manufacturer of algae photobioreactors and aquaculture production systems based in Hallow, Worcester, added: “I found the vertical farming seminar incredibly informative, and appreciated the opportunity to present, and meet with other individuals and companies with the sector.

“We will definitely be pursuing the contacts that were made at the event so that we can create long lasting supply partnerships and explore ways in which build future opportunities in the agri-tech space.”

The next GrowAgri expert seminar will be on the use of drone technology within horticultural and agricultural settings, on  26-27 February. It is open to any eligible Worcestershire-based businesses that operate with a commercial drone licence.