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Academics awarded UK Government funding to investigate the current state of indoor farming in the UK

Posted 5 October

Crops growing under LEDS in a vertical farm

A team of Harper Adams researchers has recently been awarded funding by the UK Government for a project entitled: Review of Technology Utilisation within Controlled Environment Agriculture.

The researchers - Professor Jim Monaghan, Director of the FPRC, Dr Andrew Beacham, Lecturer in Sustainable Crop Production, Dr Iona Huang, Senior Lecturer in Agribusiness and Food Chain Management and Dr Laura Vickers, Senior Lecture in Plant Biology - received £50,000 to undertake a review of technology use in novel agricultural production systems.

Professor Monaghan explained: “The indoor production of food crops in undergoing something of a revolution at present. In addition to traditional greenhouse and polytunnel systems we are seeing huge interest in controlled environment agriculture (CEA) approaches, such as Vertical Farming.” 

CEA is a rapidly expanding and fast-moving sector whereby crops are grown indoors using artificial light supplied by LEDs. These systems allow precise control of growth conditions and allow the stacking of multiple levels of crops to create so-called vertical farms. 

He added: “This is a rapidly-moving and expanding sector with a wide range of technological innovation, some of which is also suitable to more conventional indoor production.” 

The research team were approached by the UK Government's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) thanks to their expertise in fresh produce production systems and food supply chains.

They have published key review papers in the vertical farming sector, one of which has since gone on to become the most-read article in history in the Journal of Horticultural Science and Biotechnology. 

Prof Monaghan continued: “By consulting with researchers and technology developers in this sector we will provide the UK Government with the knowledge of the current state of technology development and incorporation in CEA, which they will be able to use to inform future policy decisions.” 

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