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    V-FAST consortium backed by Innovate UK and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council.

    A consortium of four British companies, comprising UK Urban AgriTech (UKUAT), Intelligent Growth Solutions Ltd, RheEnergise and James Hutton Institute has received a grant from the UK Government to advance the development of low-carbon and low-cost food production.  Specifically, the V-FAST consortium will explore how co-locating energy storage (RheEnergise’s HD Hydro® Energy Storage system) with vertical farms can support a low-emission route to growing protein-rich crops in a controlled environment.

    Last year, V-FAST – Vertical Farming And Storage Technologies – started investigating sites in Scotland’s Central Belt for the location of Scotland’s next generation of hectare+ scale vertical farms, powered by 100% renewables and using RheEnergise’s High-Density Hydro® energy storage system.  These farms would provide locally produced fresh foods (salads and fruits) to over 60% of the Scottish population and help meet the Scottish Government’s ambitions to produce more homegrown fruit and vegetables.  These site investigations in Scotland continue.

    Now, with the grant support received from Innovate UK and BBSRC, V-FAST will broaden the area for its site feasibility studies to across the UK, using GIS to identify and rate suitable locations for vertical farms that are co-located with renewables and High-Density Hydro® energy storage.  As part of the project, V-FAST will also undertake crop trials to establish optimal climate recipes in terms of their energy efficiency relative to produce metrics (e.g. protein per kWh or kg of CO2e).

    Mark Horler, Chairman of UKUAT said: “We are delighted that Innovate UK and BBSRC recognise the value and huge potential of our work. Each new V-FAST vertical farm would provide high quality food at a lower cost than can be achieved by a typical indoor farm drawing energy from the local grid. Supplying lower cost food, at a time when everyone is concerned with inflation, is our main objective.”

    Stephen Crosher, RheEnergise’s CEO said: “One hectare scale vertical farm can provide premium fresh produce for a year for a town of 10,000 homes and one RheEnergise project can provide the energy storage needs for a town of the same size. Each site would host wind, solar, energy storage and vertical farming all in one place, often utilising exactly the same footprint to maximise the efficiency of land use. Furthermore, V-FAST can utilise lower quality land which is not ideal for traditional farming.”

    Tanveer Khan, Head of Science at IGS said: “IGS is proud to be partnering with James Hutton Institute & Rheenergise to advance crop research with the V-FAST project. This  interdisciplinary alignment of Vertical Farming technology, Renewable energy and academic research is a futuristic collaborative approach aimed to develop cutting edge tools and processes that will help drive the UK Ag industry forward. We are excited to be part of this project.”

    Professor Derek Stewart, Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre at The James Hutton Institute commented: “The V-FAST project is a great opportunity to establish routes to sustainability for vertical farming. The Advanced Plant Growth Centre, hosted at the Jaems Hutton Institute, has reported previously on the significant sustainability of produce produced in vertical farms when linked to renewable energy and in V-FAST we will be able to mine this further by looking at production under existing and future blended energy sources.” The funded consortium is itself part of a wider collaboration which also includes Vertegrow, Light Source Technologies, LettUs Grow and Sprung Structures.

    Next generation vertical farms use advanced soil-free growing techniques and stack crops in specially designed beds and trays.  They minimise water, fertiliser and pesticide use which is highly beneficial to the environment and make use of artificial lighting and climate control to get the desired results. Subject to detailed site investigations, planning and financing, the first V-FAST project (estimated combined cost £28m) could be completed by 2026 including 10,000m3 of vertical farming floor area and 80MWh of energy storage, producing 20 to 30 times the food production as could be grown on an open field of the same size.

    Visit the V-FAST website for further info:

    Innovate UK and BBSRC funding as part of the Novel Low Emission Food Production Systems competition