Vertical farming presents a cheaper, more environmentally friendly future for agricultural suppliers. The forecasted global growth potential of this technology was presented at the virtually held Food Matters Live 2021 in a webinar entitled “Growing up: the rise of vertical farming.”
Speaking at the event is Jamie Burrows, founder and CEO of Vertical Future, a London-based technology company specialized in controlled-environment-agriculture (CEA).
Because this sector predominantly comprises early adopters, there is still a greater focus on higher margin premium vertical products.
To shift this direction, Vertical Future operates with a long-term goal of expanding sustainable large scale vertical farms that can compete with cheap foreign imports in terms of price and quality.
“For us, it’s about growing more food closer to points of consumption,” Burrows remarks. “If you look at changes in population distribution, more people are moving into urban centers, so it’s obvious that the population is growing globally.”
Overall, Vertical Future has scaled up activities across three continents, an R&D pipeline with numerous international collaborators, and a consumer-facing urban vertical farming brand, MiniCrops, in London, UK.
Vertical goes global
Many of the largest supermarkets are beginning to recognize the vertical farming opportunity.
“We’re going to start to see more and more integration distribution hubs or very close to distribution hubs, and these will of course go directly into points of sale at supermarkets,” says Burrows.
He highlights that there are key differences for vertical farming globally in different locations around the world.
“A lot of it is driven by outdoor conditions, the amount of available arable land and the amount that’s being imported by the country in terms of fresh produce,” Burrows notes.
Regional uptake of vertical farming
In the Middle East, Burrows notes there has been a tendency to scale the industry “very quickly” and without necessarily looking at the commercial viability of the underlying technologies.
“Consumers want to grow up fast and get to market quickly and establish their position,” he comments. “But the concern there is that you know there could be some failures because the right types of technologies haven’t been chosen.”
Vertical Future assists agri-food businesses seeking to scale-up their vertical farming practices. Among its offered services, the company aids short-term research project to test the viability of a particular crop under different growing conditions, through to controlled plant production for use in clinical trials.