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Growing interest in vertical farming drives attention to research from Harper Adams

Posted 21 October

“Vertical farming could bring significant benefits in terms of production and supply chain efficiency but we need more independent research to determine if these benefits can be realised through overcoming issues such as its high start-up costs. Hopefully, publications such as this can generate interest that will help drive this research forward.”

Growing interest: a crop of strawberries in a vertical farming trial at the university.

Growing awareness of the opportunities offered by vertical farming – and the need for independent evaluation of its potential – has seen a surge in attention in research by Harper Adams academics.

The interest means that a paper written by Harper Adams academics on vertical farming has become the most read article published in one of the leading horticultural science journals – as those seeking to understand the practice look to find credible and reliable evaluation of its worth.

The paper, entitled Vertical Farming: a summary of approaches to growing skywards, written by Dr Andrew Beacham, Dr Laura Vickers and Professor Jim Monaghan of the Fresh Produce Research Centre, was published in the Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology in 2019 as part of a series of invited review articles helping to celebrate the journal’s centenary year.

Since this time, the paper has attracted significant attention and currently stands as the most-read article published in the journal, with over four times as many views as the next most popular paper, together with promotion via Twitter and other social media. This is now beginning to translate into citations appearing in the academic literature with a growing number of other publications citing the review in their work.

Dr Beacham said: “Vertical Farming is a high-profile area in the field of sustainable food production and is currently attracting a lot of interest from growers, investors and retailers – as well as in the media.

“The idea of growing stacked layers of crops in glasshouses or indoor ‘controlled environment’ facilities aims to reduce land use and produce more crop per unit area. It also opens up the possibility of urban agriculture through making use of rooftop spaces or disused urban land.

“However, there needs to be more independent research into the benefits and drawbacks of various systems – and I think this is why our paper, which both examined various vertical farming approaches and sought to evaluate the concept as a whole, may be drawing the attention it has.”

With the sustainability of food production a key topic in global agriculture, investigating such alternative approaches to growing crops could provide environmental and sociological benefits in the future.

Dr Beacham added: “Vertical farming could bring significant benefits in terms of production and supply chain efficiency but we need more independent research to determine if these benefits can be realised through overcoming issues such as its high start-up costs.

“Hopefully, publications such as this can generate interest that will help drive this research forward.”

Information about ongoing work at HAU in vertical farming and urban agriculture can be found here and here.

A copy of the article can be found here.

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