Vertically Urban has delivered a vertical farming system to Harper Adams University. UK-based horticulture lighting specialist Vertically Urban was personally recommended to the university for a bespoke LED grow light solution. The team at Vertically Urban offered a complete service solution.
Andrew Littler, Vertically Urban CEO, says, "Vertical farming is key for the next generation of growers; it is excellent to see such a progressive approach from one of the UK's top educational establishments. We worked closely with the research team, who provided a wish list for a bespoke product, and we were happy to assist."
Managing resources has never been so important. Since it was founded in 1901, Harper Adams University, Shropshire has been designed to meet this challenge. Voted the UK's Best Modern University by The Times for five consecutive years, it is set on a 635-hectare farm. It is the leading specialist university tackling the future development of our planet's food production, processing, animal sciences, engineering, land management, and sustainable business.
To provide modern, futureproof facilities for commercial and academic crop growing trials, the university invested in the Jean Jackson Glass House and research area in 2016, funded by a generous donation from The Jean Jackson Charitable Trust.
A flexible, affordable, and robust facility for students and research doctorates alike, the glasshouse is made from polycarbonate rather than glass, which allows for better thermal dynamics, making it more energy-efficient. The height of the structure results in better heat dissipation.
At its conception, the university trialed various LED lighting systems to determine how plants grow differently under different lighting conditions. Since then, a retrofit glasshouse compartment has been added to the facility to house several final-year research projects and a commercial project. Moreover, the university will soon be starting a research project funded by DEFRA.
The project will pair different cultivars of lettuce with various conditions. The aim is to look at the path from seedling to plant and the effect of varying lighting. This builds on previous research into light recipes in rooting young plants and looking at if we can produce plants with different light. There will always be limitations, and you can never fully substitute natural light, but vertical farming is proven to manipulate plant growth.
Several theories will be explored and questioned:
- Faster growth root, is that beneficial for overall growth when planted?
- Exploring the science behind the difference
- Grow to plant – not grow to harvest
The Vertically Urban 4 channel tuneable HORTI-BLADE, ideal for research or variable spectrum installation, was customized to meet the university requirements. The spectral content can be tuned to far-red light to stimulate flowering and plant elongation. Having been impressed with the first offering, Harper Adams University Fresh Produce Research Centre increased the order to 10 x 4 channel HORTI-BLADEs and 10 x single channel blue blades. These were to work within the following configuration: 4 racks with, each rack containing two shelves. Each shelf has 3 HORTI-BLADES.
The solution offers flexibility with the ability for higher light levels and uniform light distribution.
Prof Jim Monaghan, Harper Adams University says, "Vertically Urban has provided us with outstanding communication and support. They deliver what they say they will in excellent lead times, even more, impressive in the middle of the pandemic. The pandemic hasn't compromised anything! We would highly recommend them to other universities and will continue working with them in the future.
The team recently went to view their lights in action and met with Dr. Olivia Cousins, Post Doctorate Research Assistant, and Professor Jim Monaghan, Professor of Crop Science, Director – Fresh Produce Research Centre.