“I have an innate desire to make vertical farming as accessible as possible and for it not be seen as an also-ran,“ states Jaz Singh, CEO at Innovation Agri Tech (IAG). According to Jaz, Innovation Agri Tech is one of the largest indoor aeroponic farms operating in the UK.
Innovation Agri Tech has over 10, 000-sq feet of aeroponic growing space, based in the heart of the home counties. The company considers the site to be a showroom for its Growframe technology, along with the germination station, seedling transfer and growing capability.
Currently just under half of the facility is committed to R&D. “We are working with several prominent scientific third parties to grow the unusual for a wide variety of uses, proving time and again the versatility of our design,” Jaz affirms.
An off switch
The company grows a wide range of produce, from brassicas to root vegetables. From regular herbs to powerful medicinal plants with vastly reduced growth cycle times, every time. Jaz explains that “germination to harvest time is reduced and the number of harvests increased, offering a great return per seed planted.”
The Growframe technology
“‘Leafy Greens’ is a phrase that breeds antipathy. I believe it represents the ‘off ‘ switch for the next generation of vertical farmers. It’s knocking down the barriers, the door to objection and realizing the potential of our technology is where IAG are best placed,” states Jaz.
The passion behind IAG arrived in the UK from India, borne from the desperate plight of the Punjabi farmers. The debt, addiction and despair led to the intolerably high levels of suicide amongst this demographic, -a situation seen at first hand by Jaz Singh and his family. Jaz explains that this agricultural landscape is caused by low produce prices, poor irrigation, increased cost of basic cultivation to feed a family, and abuse by private money lenders. And the most significant: uneducated and unrestricted use of chemical fertilizers and consequential crop failure. Surely there had to be a better way.
The IAG point of difference between their technology and other Vertical farmers in the UK arena is that the Growframe is ‘truly vertical’. “Our double-sided, modular, positionable panels hang within a rack system, which, in its simplest form means we can move them. Either closer or further away from the species-specific variable wavelength LED light source. In this way we are enabling the maturation of a wide variety of species within one set of panels should we wish,” Jaz says.
Moreover, the design of the GrowFrame allows for operator access all the way around. Without working at height, no additional expensive heavy machinery, it poses no serious health and safety risk leading to increased insurance liability. According to Jaz, the system reduces labor costs, whereas the Growframe being 6ft tall, is a height most operators could reach to harvest or tend, enabling an efficient and safe operation.
In the last twelve months, the head count at IAG has doubled. “We have been fortunate to recruit some truly formidable additional team members. A Procurement & Product Manager, a Strategic Relationship Manager, our AgriTech Business Exec, and our Grower/Agronomist,” Jaz adds. He says that the team, coupled with the skills of Dr. Chris Foulds who is working alongside as a consultant, means the business is moving apace bringing a wealth of experience gained across the Fresh Produce Sectors.
Red Tractor Food Safety Accreditation is well underway for IAG, paving the way for other vertical farmers in this new environment. “Assessing our process and protocols at every stage of the growing cycle is essential to providing reassurance to the consumer that our produce is ‘safe’ and more importantly ‘clean’.”
Jaz says that “IAG have created strong alliances with the UK research community, as well as those memberships which represent our core values. Our technology roadmap dissemination will be from within the UK to Europe and the US.”