“Vertikit aims to offer a solution to the issue of access to technology, which can be challenging in the CEA sector," says Dr. William Stiles, director of Vertikit, a one-stop-shop for growing technologies.
"There are numerous companies that offer bespoke or turnkey solutions, but it is possible to buy all the components you need to construct a controlled environment farm from existing horticultural manufacturers, or from manufacturers in comparable sectors. By bringing these different components and technologies together into one place, we hope to show people that anyone can build their own farm."
Dr. William Stiles holds a PhD in ecology and biogeochemistry from the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University. As a lecturer for BioInnovation Wales and leader of the Knowledge Exchange Hub in IBERS for Farming Connect, Will teaches high-level horticultural production and pushes CEA forward in Wales. Through his work, Will and his colleagues recognized a lack of access to technology and equipment for controlled environment agriculture, then established Vertikit as a one-stop-shop that provides over 1,500+ products for vertical farming and CEA.
Featured product categories include horticultural lighting, climate control systems, air handling, monitoring and measurement, hydroponic systems, substrates and nutrients, home vertical farming system and racking, benches, and trays.
“We want to showcase the latest technology and help the industry to grow by allowing growers to experiment with this technology at a price point that reduces the financial barrier to entry. Breaking a farm down into the individual necessary components can allow growers to develop farm systems incrementally and discover what works for them.”
Vertikit Farm Builder and online knowledge base to guide growers
Vertikit also has a free Farm Builder feature that allows growers to build a farm by selecting a farm type (i.e., greenhouse or grow room) then the farm size and layout to view products specifically chosen for their facility. Vertikit then emails the recommendations to the grower. Growers can also contact the Vertikit team for additional assistance.
“Our initial version of Farm Builder will develop quickly as our understanding of the needs of growers evolves. We want to advance Vertikit’s approach to showcasing technologies to make it a more predictive tool, so that we can be specific about what technologies would be best for the growers, depending on circumstance, crop type, and budget” explains Will.
Further, Vertikit has an online knowledge base with a range of resources, including technical articles, to provide information on different production methods and the latest advancements in horticultural research.
“The intention of Vertikit is not just to sell the technology, but to advance the CEA industry in the UK and Europe. A key part of this will be linking growers to the latest scientific advances within all aspects of this sector. As someone who has been involved extensively with knowledge exchange within the horticultural sector for the last few years, I can say that this is an essential requirement. We want to become a forum for growers where detailed information can be found and accessed, to support growers and to share ideas” Will notes.
As the UK grapples with supply chain challenges related to Brexit, the pandemic, and being an island nation, there is an increased need for locally produced fruits and vegetables. However, the industry has not yet filled those niches; Vertikit hopes to provide UK growers with the technology to achieve higher efficiencies and increase the scale of production.
“Growers require support in order to adopt the new technologies surrounding CEA. Support with access and understanding of the technology, and support with an understanding of how this technology can be applied. We hope to fill that void by providing information, advice, and access to these technologies, all in one place,” explains Will.