Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), the Scottish-based vertical farming business, is set to complete the construction of its first indoor growth facility in the next few months. The purpose-built facility is being constructed at the James Hutton Institute‘s site in Invergowrie, near Dundee.
The completion of the indoor farm will allow for a full-scale trial to deliver the UK’s first commercially viable vertical growing environment through a collaboration with global automation business Omron.
Omron is recognised globally as a leader in the automation and control systems market, and is also well known for its very strong presence in the medical equipment sector. The business is credited with inventing many disruptive everyday systems used globally. For example, Omron developed the first automated traffic signal in the world, the basis of today’s magnetic card systems and through collaborations introduced the digital blood pressure monitor and digital thermometer.
The Dundee-based project will be delivered by IGS in collaboration with the James Hutton Institute and Omron to tackle the challenge of making vertical farming commercially viable through greatly reduced power and labour costs. In addition to this, it aims to establish a better understanding of the plant science and types of crops which can be grown best in an indoor farming environment.
Professor Colin Campbell, Chief Executive of the James Hutton Institute, said: “We are delighted to see how well the work on IGS’ indoors growth facility at our Dundee site is progressing. This initiative combines our world-leading knowledge of plant science at the James Hutton Institute and IGS’ entrepreneurship to develop efficient ways of growing plants on a small footprint with low energy and water input.”
Henry Aykroyd, CEO of IGS, explained the advantages of the technique: “Vertical farming allows us to provide the exact environmental conditions necessary for optimal plant growth. By adopting the principles of Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA), a system in which all aspects of the growing environment can be controlled, it is possible to eliminate variations in the growing environment, enabling the grower to produce consistent, high quality crops with minimal wastage, in any location, all year round.”
After forming collaborations with the James Hutton Institute to provide agricultural expertise, IGS approached Omron to consult on the automation side of the project. Automation is critical for the efficiency and productivity of the project at every level. Initially, it will control and monitor the stacking system, the LED lighting and the hydroponics systems. In the future, automation would control every feature in the facility, meaning the solution has to be as scalable and flexible as possible.
“A highly integrated automation strategy, patented energy reduction technology and the most advanced biological research available will be the three key pillars to success in this project,” said Aykroyd. “Partnering with two leading experts Omron and the James Hutton Institute to deliver this provides the very best opportunity for a new approach to vertical farming.”
Commenting on Omron’s involvement in this project, Omron Field Sales Engineer Kassim Okera added: “Omron’s guiding principles drive us to be a pioneer in creating and supporting the development of inspired solutions for the future. I can’t think of a better example than this one, which uses the most advanced technology to solve a humanitarian need. Omron’s unique integrated product offering and Sysmac platform combined with extensive market experience, underpin the most innovative vertical farm in the UK which has the potential to be the first vertical farm in the world that is economically viable.”
Intelligent Growth Solutions will be on hand to discuss the project at the Royal Highland Show (22-25 June 2017) in the James Hutton Institute marquee on Avenue Q.
An Omron Mobile Robot – LD Series Autonomous Intelligent Vehicle – will also be present at the Royal Highland Show to demonstrate how this technology and increased automation will bring vertical farming to commercial reality.
Article source: James Hutton Institute