Our food supply chain is broken. The reasons for it are complex, but put simply, the UK is exposed to several risk factors that can – and now have – combined to produce acute shortages on our shelves. Something needs to change urgently; and technology may – at least in part – have the answer.
The UK still relies on the European Union for the majority of its food imports, particularly during the winter months when warmer countries like Spain allow for consistent production of items like tomatoes or lettuce. In fact, 95% of our tomatoes and 90% of our lettuces come from Spain at this time of year.
There are two key issues to consider right now.
Brexit, regardless of your views, has made food trade with the EU more difficult. The added bureaucracy required to comply with new laws makes importing and exporting much more difficult and slow.
Climate change has had an increasing impact on yields across Europe in recent months too. Extreme or unpredictable weather can have a devastating impact on output.
Taken alone, we might have been able to handle each issue individually. However, floods, snow and hailstones have seriously impacted on harvests in both Spain and north Africa – our key import markets – at the worst possible time.
So-called ‘once in a generation’ weather events are becoming more common because of climate change. These problems are no longer outliers. If we want food security, something has to give.
Indoor vertical farming is a home-grown technology that offers farmers an opportunity to fill that need and make the UK more resilient. Towers can be built on any unused land to provide perfect growing conditions for a huge number of crops, with remotely operated software-driven systems helping maximise output and produce many times the volume of produce you would expect from the equivalent square footage of land using traditional techniques. Produce can be grown close to the consumer, not only reducing food miles, but increasing both shelf-life and the nutritional value. No herbicides. No pesticides.
Using our technology as an example, if just 3% of the UK’s 216,000 farm holdings had one 12m vertical tower dedicated to lettuce, we could entirely meet the country’s needs from within our own borders.
Integrating vertical farming into our food production systems will make the UK more resilient to import variations, staffing problems, disease and weather events. And in the summer, the towers could be used to either amplify output, or help farmers diversify crops for example by producing seedlings that can be grown on in a more traditional setting, potentially delivering more harvests each year. It’s a massive win.
And it might just mean you can plan that salad without worrying if you have enough fruit and veg for tomorrow.
“I choose to challenge because as an engineer I believe more diversity leads to more creativity.”
“I choose to challenge because we need women’s skills and insights at ALL levels in the workplace.”
“I choose to challenge because I think women should always support other women and because inequality is still a major problem in some countries around the world.”
“I choose to challenge because encouraging challenge breeds genuine innovation across our business.”
"I choose to challenge gender stereotypes and encourage constructive challenges from all."
“I choose to challenge to address imbalance.”
“I choose to challenge because we need to celebrate women's achievements and drive positive change in gender balance both in the workplace and our everyday lives.”
“I choose to challenge because everyone deserves the chance to achieve their full potential.”
Tuesday, January 3, 2023
Sustainable farming isn't just about maximising profits; it also focuses on the thoughtful and effective use of non-renewable resources throughout the farming process. By prioritising sustainability, farmers can produce nutritious, healthy food while improving their own standard of living and reducing their impacts on climate change.
Wednesday, March 1, 2023
This innovative food production system can significantly increase crop yields while increasing efficiency and fortifying the sustainability and resilience of agricultural systems. But what exactly is vertical farming and why is it so important?
Monday, December 19, 2022
Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), the Edinburgh-headquartered agricultural infrastructure business, has welcomed seasoned business leader and attorney, Andrea Zopp, to its board. Ms Zopp joins IGS’ non-executive team to help drive forward the business’ global expansion as it builds capacity to deploy its vertical farming machines to customers on four continents.