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Current, Powered by GE and Stockbridge Technology Centre partner

New facility to research the farm of the future

Current, powered by GE celebrated the opening of CHAP’s new Vertical Farming Development Facility, supported by Innovate UK and based at Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), which leverages the company’s Arize horticultural lighting solution to propel commercial urban farming success in the UK. The research facility, located in Selby, North Yorkshire, is designed to help entrepreneurs, growers and investors gain deeper insight into the technology and environmental parameters needed to optimise crop yields before breaking ground on their own vertical farming operations.

By testing the latest technology and approaches relevant to this production model, the STC will improve the industry’s understanding of ideal indoor farming crop light requirements and growing conditions.

Potential investors and vertical farmers can work with STC’s plant scientists and vertical farming experts to identify and test the perfect vertical farm setup to maximise their planned harvest’s size, nutritional value and visual appeal. In a controlled environment, they are able to monitor and tweak parameters such as the length of the growing day, CO2 concentration, humidity, nutrients and temperature, to ensure that their proposed farm will be commercially sustainable prior to construction. The resulting data supports business planning activity and minimises risks previously associated with vertical farming.

This “farm of the future”, built by systems integrator GrowStack working in conjunction with TCE Electrical, is the latest research initiative to be led by CHAP and Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC), a pioneer in experimental and applied horticulture research since the 1950s. Since its inception, STC has acted as a bridge between academia and commerce, sharing valuable research and insight that has helped to revolutionise farming practice in the UK.

The installation contains two identical grow rooms - a total growing area of 228m2 - with full climate control and a recirculating hydroponics system as well as futuristic propagation and germination rooms. Four tiers of cropping racks are lit by 780m of Arize LED lighting, delivering a balanced spectrum of red and blue wavelengths that will help boost the development of a broad range of plants.

“As cities’ populations grow at an exponential rate, the demand for fresh produce grows as well,” states Dr Rhydian Beynon-Davies, head of novel growing systems at STC. “We have the potential to grow more produce at an industrial scale within our cities and the focus of this new facility is to support the growers who are taking this bold step into the future of farming. By developing controlled environment grow systems integrated with LED lighting, we can demonstrate how, through technology, urban farming can improve the supply and nutritional value of food in a way that is commercially viable.”

“Over the years, Stockbridge Technology Centre has been at the forefront of innovation, devoted to one of the most fundamental industries in the UK – that of feeding the population,” comments Malcolm Yare, Horticulture Business Development Manager for Current by GE. “Light is critical to the success of any crop and by focusing on combining the most effective wavelengths with the optimal environmental conditions, we can help growers outpace traditional methods by creating more “farmable space” in industrial and urban areas, increasing global harvests in a way that is both commercially and environmentally sustainable.”

The Arize range of horticulture solutions has been developed based on Current by GE’s experience in intelligent, connected industrial lighting, combined with extensive research and collaboration with horticulture and agriculture experts. The lights have been designed for easy, plug-and-play installation and are also fully sealed and IP66 UL Wet rated for easy cleaning in high-care, cleanroom environments. With a 36K-hour lifetime (L90) and five-year warranty, the horticulture lighting solutions allow growers to amortise their capital expenditure over a longer period for greater return on investment.

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