A new climate-controlled facility designed to support a ground-breaking vertical farming project has officially launched.
Lesley Griffiths, minister for rural affairs, North Wales and Trefnydd, opened the Tech Tyfu Innovation Hub at M-Sparc on Anglesey.
Delivered by not-for-profit organisation Menter Môn, with support from the Welsh Government, the pilot programme was a success with growers in Gwynedd and Anglesey, who developed and supplied fresh micro greens to restaurants, hotels and consumers using sustainable, water-based hydroponic methods.
The second phase of the initiative will see 13 growing sites across Wales supported by the hub – which features a four-layer nutrient film technique rack system with a production capacity of 732 plant heads, flood and drain units, a grow room and a controlled environment chamber – in the next year.
Project manager Luke Tyler thanked the minister for attending and believes Tech Tyfu will play a major role in shaping the agri-technology economy nationwide, promoting food tourism, and strengthening supply chains.
“We are excited to open the new Innovation Hub, it will be pivotal in supporting the growers through research and development and horticulture training,” he said.
“From this cutting-edge facility we will trial new crops, growing methods, and equipment, working with academic and business partners to explore opportunities for crops and technology.
“We will also host an equipment library to encourage new growers to take their first steps into vertical farming without prohibitive costs.
“It was a pleasure to be able to demonstrate the progress made so far and our wider vision to the minister – we thank her again for supporting the project and visiting us today.”
The minister reinforced those words and said: “It’s great to see this innovation taking place on Anglesey with Welsh Government support.
“Vertical farming has the potential to cut the length of supply chains, increase food security and cut carbon emissions.
“The new Innovation Hub will ensure Wales will be at the cutting-edge of agri-technology and horticultural research, and I’m pleased to officially launch it.”
Vertical farming allows growers to control the environment of their crop, which improves water and nutrient use efficiency by up to an order of magnitude.
It also enables them to create conditions necessary to grow out of season crops, reducing pressure on the food supply chain as well as transport, packaging, and refrigeration costs.
Innovation Hub project officer, Molly Poulter, now looks forward to exploring further research and development opportunities over the coming months, providing farmers, businesses, and the food industry with more scope to diversify.
“The hub will bridge the gap between research and development and commercialisation, all of which complements our work on the scale-up project,” she said.
“The initial focus will be on supporting the 13 growers, and long-term we plan to help businesses in different areas of farming and agri-technology with their product and system ideas.
“We will also be looking at the systems and machinery here and the technology supplied to the growers, using feedback to advance that further, and running training courses so people can learn more about vertical horticulture.
“We will continue testing the programme and are excited to seeing how things develop.”