In the era of climate change and Brexit, British farming is facing unprecedented challenges. How to supply environmentally friendly, locally sourced and competitively priced food? One part of the answer could lie in a shipping container in an east London car park, just moment’s away from the capital’s business district. Inside are racks of leafy green vegetables, grown vertically using hydroponic technology.
“Traditional organic farming is not sustainable if we're going to feed a population,” says Sebastian Sainsbury, the founder of Crate to Plate, which has just had its first harvest. Not only does Crate to Plate use otherwise wasted space - these three shipping containers can grow the equivalent of an acre’s soil - but the proximity to customers keeps the produce fresh.
“When you harvest the lettuce from the soil, within 48 hours, you've lost 40 percent of the nutritional value. And it goes down every day,” Indoor farming has boomed in recent years, particularly in the US, where Mr. Sainsbury lived until recently and where he developed his business. But the UK is yet to fully capitalize on its opportunities, says Dr. Robert Hancock of the James Hutton Institute, which is supporting pioneering vertical farming techniques from its facility in Dundee.
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