What began as a vertical farming company in Southeast London is now reaching into Asia, the Middle East, and further. Vertical Future is a London-based vertical farming company that designs, builds, and licenses advanced hardware and software technologies for the vertical farming industry.
After spending its first three years of operation focused solely on growing, working with industry-standard vertical hydroponic systems, Vertical Future began developing its own proprietary technology system. Soft-launched in September 2020, Vertical Future’s system has redesigned every component of the vertical farm, from lighting to irrigation.
When it comes to nutrient delivery, both hydroponic and aeroponic methods are possible through the system. Vertical Future has also taken a fractional approach to LEDs in order to modify lighting (at a very granular level) to best suit the plant’s needs. While the vertical farming industry widely praises itself for advanced automation and data integration, Founder and CEO Jamie Burrows explained that claims of technological advancement are not always well-founded.
“Most farms refer to automation on a basic level, like turning lights on and off or staging nutrient delivery. It’s the same on the data side. People talk about data integration or ‘Machine Learning’ or ‘Artificial Intelligence’ but often they refer to basic stuff like controlling or modulating temperature and humidity, which are important, but not particularly interesting from a data standpoint. For example, one of the most labor-intensive aspects of a farm is moving and monitoring trays across the entire plant lifecycle. That’s a big point of automation that a lot of people don’t think about, but that our system has addressed.”
Vertical Future’s system is fully automated, from seed treatment through to harvesting, with robots transporting products between the different processes. Labour in its farms is primarily focused on high-value activities, such as monitoring outputs from its proprietary software-as-a-service (SaaS) product, Diana.
Among the services offered by the company is the implementation of its turnkey systems both at home and abroad, with the company recently announcing the upcoming deployment of its systems in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Vertical Future has also established a partnership in Singapore for a 10,000-square meter manufacturing facility. The company also offers contract research and consultancy services, all aimed at fostering innovation and sustainability in the vertical farming sector. Aside from Vertical Future’s advanced growing systems and services, the company also has a consumer brand MiniCrops, which is sold in over 100 restaurants and thousands of homes across London.
Looking to vertical farming’s future, Jamie expects to “see a mass expansion of all kinds of vertical farms. In the U.K., maybe a couple of mega-farms with 50,000-250,000square meters, and 15-20 farms of 10,000-15,000 square meters, which seems to be the sweet spot for size.” Jamie also explained that the sector’s rapid expansion requires access to venture capital, but that investors may become overwhelmed by the numerous companies looking to expand.
“Investors are starting to get involved in different vertical farming companies, but it is becoming crowded so it can be difficult for investors to distinguish good and bad propositions unless they are well informed.” Whether installing systems in the UK or internationally, Vertical Future’s vision remains the same: to build a sustainable and healthy food system that is accessible to everyone.
“We don’t believe in purely premium, high-end models where you’re spending a lot of money on a piece of kale or microgreens. This is the way that the vertical farming market has gone, which is natural for a market of this size and maturity. But I think that we should be pushing for proper food sustainability, which includes pricing. Fresh produce that is pest-free and grown locally should be available to everyone. In order for that to happen, we need to improve production techniques and advance the sector.”