Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) based at Cawood, Selby, North Yorkshire helps ensure continued technological developments for the crop production industry. The formation of STC back in 2001 has created an independent centre of excellence for the agri-food industry supported by both the production and supply sectors.
Why is there a need?
There are significant national and global drivers for innovation in this area.
- Climate change is predicted to disrupt conventional outdoor production systems and with population growth anticipated to reach 9 billion by 2020 the need for a robust food supply has never been greater.
- Brexit may disrupt existing markets and, as we currently import somewhere in the region of 50% of our food products (closer to 80% for some salad crops e.g. tomato), the UK is potentially at risk unless we can increase local production.
- The NHS is under pressure due to an obesity epidemic and diets need to change to increase intake of more fresh produce (> 5 a day).
- The output from such facilities is estimated to be significantly higher than conventional production systems due to the more rapid year-round growth rate, minimal wastage and the ability to scale-up production per unit area by stacking crops in a multi-layer platform.
- Food crops grown in vertical farms will not require pesticide applications (providing the environment is managed correctly), and can be planted and harvested automatically so any risks of food-borne illness such as coli can be largely eliminated by avoiding opportunities for poor hygiene in the workforce. Shelf-life and health benefits can be maximised as the produce can be bagged without the need for washing in chlorinated water.
- LED’s are currently between 30-40% more efficient than existing horticultural lighting systems and efficiently continues to improve year on year. In addition, solar capture through the use of PV panels is improving thus further increasing sustainability of the technology. Growers able to integrate such facilities with combined heat & power (CHP) units and capture CO2 for use could potentially improve their overall efficiency still further.
What is the Asset
At STC we have been working on LED lighting for crop production in both glasshouse and closed buildings for over 5 years. This asset will be a semi-commercial scale vertical farm to showcase existing and novel technologies for indoor crop production. The new facility will be designed to answer the economic questions around investment but also will provide a platform for future R&D, including crop breeding, that will enable continued innovation and uptake of new technology in this sector.
How it can help the agricultural sector
Our primary focus is on ‘industry need’ and we are used to developing and delivering demonstration projects and innovative technology to farmers & growers. Worldwide predications indicate the vertical farming industry will have a multi-billion pound value within 15 years. Not only would will this applied demonstration facility provide the perfect platform for those wishing to invest in vertical farming systems, it will also become a greater focal point for future research endeavours in this sector.
UK growers & investment groups (both in the UK and elsewhere around the globe) are particularly interested in investing in the technology, but without economic data on capital and running costs relative to data on output for various crops ,they are reluctant to take the risk to develop commercial facilities. The commercial demonstration facility would satisfy this requirement to help decision-making by both growers & other investors alike.
If you want more information on this asset, or book a tour of our facilities or discuss a potential collaboration with us, please contact:
Dr Phil Davis Head of Plant Physiology & Lighting
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Martin McPherson Innovation & Technology Director
Email : email@example.com
Dr David George Science Director
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
STC Office telephone no. is +44 (0) 1757 268275