Browse our FAQ knowledge base for answers to your questions about IGS, our work and our products.
IGS was formed in 2013. Its purpose was to bring ‘Indoor horticulture to commercial reality’ by combining efficient internet-enabled smart lighting with automation and power management.
The founders’ experience combined extensive knowledge of horticulture, industrial automation and big data. Since it was founded the team has designed and is now selling a revolutionary controlled-environment growth system. With offices in Edinburgh, Chicago and Invergowrie, IGS is set to become a global organisation and is already delivering change in the indoor agri-tech market.
The IGS system can grow a variety of herbs and leafy greens including basil, lettuce, romaine, and chard. Additionally, our system can germinate and propagate an ever-widening range of early stage crops including seed potatoes, strawberries and broccoli. We use these crops for demonstration purposes and research trials, composting the crops when finished.
No. We supply the infrastructure and training for farmers to grow crops. We have developed and will supply the components for the IGS system, help oversee the construction and assembly partners and will then train the farmer to successfully grow the desired crops. We will then provide further data and software updates for successful ‘growth recipes’ which can be used to produce consistently good crops time after time.
We offer solutions for:
- Traditional farmers looking to grow high value crops at scale all year long.
- Farming entrepreneurs who want to build indoor farming facilities to serve local communities, restaurants, hotels, venues or even retailers.
- Governments that want to deliver high quality, safe and nutritious food to their communities, and create jobs for people growing food locally.
- Food processors that want top quality fresh ingredients grown to organic standards at affordable prices
- Retailers & restaurants looking to minimise waste and increase shelf life for high quality supply that is consistent in appearance and taste.
No, our systems have been designed to have simplicity at the core. They can be managed remotely using a mobile phone app and with a greater level of data collection and monitoring than any other agricultural approaches. This helps make it an easier and more manageable system for farmers with no specialist expertise required. Our systems also provide the optimum growing data – heat, light, water, CO2 – to allow for the perfect produce to be grown every time.
By adopting the principles of Totally Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA), in which all aspects of the growing environment can be controlled (light, temperature, humidity, irrigation, nutrition and even air composition), it is possible to eliminate variations in the growing environment, enabling the grower to produce consistent, high quality crops all year round. The system also offers unrivalled control over plant disease and eliminates the need for pesticides, which is not the case with glasshouse growing.
There is the potential for far greater yields with vertical farming compared to growing in greenhouses. Typically a glass house is about 30kg/m2/annum but with our facility we were seeing closer to 60kg/m2/annum (100% increase) for basil. This is also not taking into consideration any wastage in the greenhouse environment through to the variations in climate, pest and disease as previously mentioned.
We typically achieve harvest weight/yield in 60-70% of the time it takes in a glasshouse. This means we can run up to 50% more growing cycles per annum.
The use of TCEA means that the optimum growth conditions can be communicated digitally to other growth systems anywhere in the world through networked systems which greatly improves the effectiveness and productivity potential of the systems, as well as quality and yield of the produce. This is not something that is achievable in glass house environments currently.
Compared to many other indoor environments the benefits of our system include:
Less energy – intelligent, multi-spectral lighting only delivers the light plants need, through a high-efficiency, dynamic power system.
- Less water – closed-loop irrigation system means only water used is in the plants grown.
- Less wastage – yield is maximised in every growing cycle. Enhanced scheduling capabilities and dynamic lighting control means crops with extended shelf-life can be grown to order.
- Less chemicals – no pesticides, biocides or fungicides
We consider our Growth Tower approach to be the most advanced Vertical Farm design developed to date, and certainly the first to offer a true Totally Controlled Environment Agriculture capability, offering both monitoring and control of all aspects of the growth environment which have a significant influence on crop quality and productivity.
Of particular importance is the ability to control both the intensity and spectrum of light provided to the crop (variable through the growth cycle of the crop) and the ability to monitor all parameters to provide quality control and the ability to do evidence based learning and improvement through AI.
Additionally, supporting this in the background, a number of technical advancements in power transmission / LED control and closed loop systems minimise the power consumption of the system and greatly improve the economics of the solution.
CEA really puts the emphasis on control and building facilities for growing indoors ensures produce productivity despite climate change. With smaller land footprints required with the growing taking place in towers stacked vertically it offers greater flexibility on location and good arable land is not necessary. It also means that facilities can be built right next to consumers or customers and reduces the need for food miles and waste of produce as it can be grown to demand.
The IGS facilities have been constructed using limited materials - all selected to ensure longevity of operation. Built in a modular design to develop with production demand and replacement of damaged components. The materials used are from a number of different sources, many of which can be from recycled sources e.g. aluminium and steel, with minimal plastics and copper used. Additionally, our systems are modular, so they can be scaled to the farmer’s desire, and taken anywhere in the world.
IGS’ “virtual-power plant” capabilities demonstrate strong Demand Side Response (DSR) potential. This will lead to greater engagement in circular energy projects to utilise ‘spare’ energy for growing and allows for more renewable power sources to be adopted.
To reduce water consumption IGS developed a system to harvest rainwater, and utilise that as the key water source in its systems.
Our collaboration with the James Hutton Institute – a leading crop research and science facility in Scotland – is very important. It will allow the industry to benefit from a greater level of knowledge and understanding in digitising crop growth in a controlled indoor environment. Our shared Knowledge Transfer Partnership is starting to identify algorithms for the perfect growing conditions of a range of crops which can be formulated and shared digitally to ensure that other users are able to grow similar crops consistently, wherever they are.
Vertical farming is the practice of producing food in vertically stacked layers. The modern ideas of vertical farming use indoor farming techniques and controlled-environment agriculture (CEA) technology, where all environmental factors can be controlled to optimise plant growth.
Vertical farming is a nascent and exciting sector to be in. It has the serious potential to address areas of global agricultural and environmental need with a committed and innovative community driving its adoption.
Across the globe there are major challenges driving the need for a huge and urgent transformation in how we produce and distribute food. Populations are growing dramatically. It is predicted that the world population is expected to go from 7.6 billion today to 8.6 billion in 2030, and 9.8 billion in 2050 (The World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision, published by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affair). It is imperative that we find ways to feed this population easily, sustainably and with quality produce.
The mass adoption of indoor farming will be fundamental to achieving this. Crops can be grown closer to the point of consumption and/or distribution, so reducing freight costs and food miles whilst increasing shelf life and removing the need for damaging interventions such as washing lettuce all of which combine to deliver a significant decrease in wastage.
By growing crops closer to the market in controlled vertical farming conditions, it is possible to accurately predict and grow to market demand, resulting in a reduction in food waste.
Plants grown in a vertical farming environment should be free of pesticides; free of diesel-powered vehicles; water should be constantly recycled and crops not washed in chlorinated water. It eliminates crop losses due to weather, disease, drought and pests. It means we can grow healthier, more nutritious foods at economically viable prices.
The controlled environment has the capacity to control quality, taste and flavour, enabling crops to become fresher, and have a longer shelf life. The environment helps alleviate crop losses due to weather, disease, drought, or pests.
Vertical farming is key to the future of farming, but it will not take place of traditional farming. Both types of farming will continue to exist and expand. Modern agriculture faces a number of challenges, which will only be exacerbated as climate and population conditions change. These include water scarcity, land-use and the problems associated with monoculture, the use of pesticides and their impacts on health and the natural environment due to their use. Vertical farming can help to alleviate these challenges but will not replace traditional farming.
The biggest challenge is cost – cost of power, labour and equipment.
The technology has to become cheaper for it to be used as a mainstream solution. IGS is working towards a system that will enable low initial capital outlay, scalability, flexibility, efficiency and reduced labour through automation.
Sunlight is free and this will always be one of the biggest issues with TCEA. However, by enabling the technology to be compatible with smart energy, it can actually provide a means of supporting the national power grid and encouraging the national adoption of renewable energy. Furthermore, IGS’s advances in the efficient use of photons means that as little energy as possible is wasted.
IGS’ system is fully automated from planting, through the growing cycle and into picking and packing. This means that labour costs can be dramatically reduced with very little human interaction required for the growing and harvesting processes.