The largest naturally lit vertical farm in Britain has begun harvesting, and the creators plan to build 40 more.
It looks nothing like a traditional farm, with bright white towers of leafy green vegetables stacked as high as the eye can see. But Shockingly Fresh’s first giant greenhouse, in Offenham, Worcestershire, is harvesting thousands of bunches of pak choi and lettuce destined for supermarket shelves. The farm is suited to a variety of leafy greens, as well as strawberries and herbs.
Unlike the majority of vertical farms, which use fully enclosed systems with heating and artificial LED light, Shockingly Fresh uses only natural light. The dark winter afternoons in Britain mean that, unlike most hydroponic farms, production varies through the year, with fewer crops grown in winter.
Company development director Nick Green said: “Production isn’t completely linear as it would be in a fully-lit vertical farm, but we do match the consumption pattern of people – people don’t eat as much lettuce in winter as they do in summer.”
Seasonal fruit such as strawberries can still be grown in the colder months, the company says, which could help reduce imports. “It is ultimately better for the environment. I can’t say it’s carbon-neutral, but it isn’t as carbon-hungry as an LED vertical farm would be,” Green said.
Many companies across the country are experimenting with hydroponic and other vertical farms, as land use is reevaluated. Scientists are developing ways farming could become higher-yield and use less land, pesticides, and water, so more land can be left for nature.
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