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The world’s largest vertical farm is being built in the UK

The plan is to eliminate imports of soft fruit, herbs and salad within a decade

Sophie Dickinson
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Sophie Dickinson
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When you picture a farm, you probably imagine rows of fields, bursting with crops for miles around. That’s old news. Scientists are now developing vertical farms – where plants are grown on trays on top of each other indoors – which reduces the amount of space required dramatically.

It may sound like the kind of ambitious scheme you’d find on the outskirts of cities across Europe and Asia, but a groundbreaking example of this type of farm is about to be built in Gloucestershire in the UK. The plan is to eliminate imports of soft fruit, herbs and salad to the country within a decade. Which sounds pretty damn radical to us.

The ‘skyscraper farm’ plan comes from scientists and farmers at Jones Food Company, which already supplies around a third of UK’s fresh-cut basil to major retailers. They’re not content with just the one crop, though. While they currently have a vertical farm – complete with trailing feeding pipes for nutrients and water – in Lincolnshire, along with a lab in Bristol, this new Gloucestershire outpost would be the largest in the world. 

The space will apparently equate to a whopping 96 tennis courts stacked on top of each other. Pretty damn impressive. But the plan isn’t just ambitious for its own sake. Around 46 percent of all food consumed in Britain is imported, so the vertical farming method hopes to significantly reduce the country’s carbon footprint by growing it here instead. These farms also use 94 percent less water than normal production methods, and can be managed using 100 percent green energy. Because the plants are grown inside, there’s no danger of fertiliser run-off polluting nearby rivers either.

The company was formed in response to Brexit – well before the coronavirus pandemic, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and all the resulting supply-chain shortages. With the global food system remaining pretty fragile, we expect to see a lot more of this kind of thing taking off worldwide.

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