Run by a new firm called Jones Food Company, a British vertical farm is designed to produce 500 tonnes of plants annually starting with coriander, basil, dill and chives to feed the growing appetite for fresh herbs all year.
The first crop was sown as recently as the middle of last month, and by next week, the initial batch will already have been harvested. Everything here is geared towards growing plants as quickly and efficiently as possible. And all without a single handful of soil.
There are already a number of hydroponic farms in Britain. Thanet Earth, for example, south of Gatwick, has been operating for nearly a decade. In 2013, this facility alone produced 225 million tomatoes — around 12 per cent of the UK’s total crop.
In Clapham, South London, hydroponics and artificial lights are used to grow salad crops in former air raid shelters — an indicator of how valuable this technique could be in cities.
What makes the project in Scunthorpe so revolutionary — and so exciting — is the use of so many layers of plants and the high levels of automation which make managing them possible. The other great development from which the vertical farm has benefited has been the source of the artificial light.