A hydroponic system fitted with advanced LED lighting is being used to grow salad and mini-vegetable crops independently of sunlight and seasons so that food can be produced inside, all year round.
The ‘urban farm’ technology, which is starting to be adopted in parts of the UK, involves self-contained shelves of crops grown under lights and stacked on top of each other.
With greater automation, the director of science at Stockbridge Technology Centre in Cawood near Selby, Dr David George, believes it has a commercial role to play in helping the nation improve its food security, reduce its reliance on imports and face up to the challenge of feeding an ever-growing population.
“It’s a very reliable way of producing food that isn’t dependent on weather and you can predict exactly how much crop is going to come out,” Dr George said.
Another facility that was officially opened at the centre yesterday was an advanced glasshouse which allows new approaches to crop production and crop protection that are less reliant on chemical inputs to be tested and demonstrated to farmers in a controlled environment.
The innovations have been funded by the Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) agri-tech centre, based at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus in Sand Hutton, York.
CHAP is one of four agri-tech centres that are being invested in by the Government to address the food needs of a booming population whilst having as little effect as possible on the environment.
Dr George said it is an exciting time for agricultural innovation.
“We are seeing a lot of real progress in lots of different areas that can be brought together to make a big difference to the way we produce food.”