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New vertical farm will promote innovation in agriculture

TOWER: The vertical farm planned for Edinburgh will be a demonstration facility for farmers and students.
TOWER: The vertical farm planned for Edinburgh will be a demonstration facility for farmers and students.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has revealed plans to build a vertical farm at its King’s Buildings campus in Edinburgh next year.

The £500,000 project, which is going out to tender in the coming weeks, will be a demonstration unit for farmers, growers and small businesses.

It will focus on growing fruit and vegetables and it will promote innovation in agriculture.

The vertical farm movement has been spearheaded in Scotland by Intelligent Growth Solutions which opened a demonstration unit at the James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie in 2018.

SRUC says crop yield and growth rates of plants at the Edinburgh facility will be analysed and the carbon footprint of all resource inputs will be compared to other production systems.

There are only a handful of vertical farms in Scotland, including a demonstration unit at Invergowrie.

The unit will operate on renewable energy sources from the national grid , supported by battery technology during peaks of energy demand.

SRUC chief executive Wayne Powell said the college had been teaching farmers for generations, but it was important to look at growing different, more nutritious crops to support healthy diets and local access to food.

Fruit and vegetables that have specific health qualities will be grown in the demonstration vertical farm.

 

“One of the most critical challenges we face is how to feed a growing global population,” he said.

““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 is being supported with a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Government

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon  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. “

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