The vision of dozens of indoor ‘vertical farms’ being built across the UK has been unveiled by Edinburgh-based start-up Shockingly Fresh with the claim that such operations will be equipped to grow up to five times the amount of vegetables as traditional farms.
The company is already developing five sites countrywide with the aim of introducing ‘low cost naturally-lit’ vertical farms using special hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles of leafy veg, such as salads and herbs.
The company’s directors say the increased yields from their farms will help British growers boost crop production and reduce the UK’s reliance on costly off-season imports from the EU. They also say the enclosed environment they’re creating will reduce the need for pesticides.
To date, Shockingly Fresh have secured rights to one site in Scotland and four in England, covering 50 hectares in total. They’ve also launched an investor round to ‘kick start’ their expansion to more than 40 sites countrywide over the next five years.
“We have identified a significant market – particularly around the early and late season ‘shoulder months’ – which is currently filled by imported crops from Europe,” said Garth Bryans, COO at Shockingly Fresh. “We believe our sites will enable British growers to compete on a level field.”
The company has already submitted a planning application for a 1.2ha site at Offenham in Worcestershire and has land agreed under heads of terms across four other sites countrywide.
They are also actively seeking more sites in the UK, to be funded by new investors, and are advancing with a major project in Oman.
“Our funding round will enable us to secure and develop more than 40 sites in the UK – and we are keen to speak to brownfield site owners as well as traditional agricultural land holders,” said Bryans. pointing to forecasts that the global hydroponics market with be worth US$16billion by 2025.
“The hydroponics market is set for significant expansion in the years ahead, so there is plenty of room for a number of players to grow.”