UK: High-tech horticultural company launches new system for growing crops indoors

V-Farm, which is a spin-off of European manufacturer and distributor of indoor plants HydroGarden, has spent the last seven years developing a vertical farming concept from its base in Progress Way on the Binley Industrial Estate.

It is designed to be used world-wide from a rooftop in Canada to a warehouse in Hong Kong by using the latest hydroponics technology – which is the process of growing plants indoors – through a mobile rack structure fitted with trays, lighting and ventilation equipment which can be adapted to meet the available space.

Stuart Green, of V-Farm, contacted the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub to discuss grant opportunities.

From the left, Ilektra Alma Fronista (Coventry University Enterprises), Justine Chadwick (CWLEP Growth Hub) and Stuart Green (V-Farm)

The business secured a £10,000 Proof of Concept grant which forms part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is delivered by Coventry University Enterprises Limited. A match-funded grant was awarded at a rate of 40 percent with V-Farm’s 60 percent contribution.

Using experience
Stuart explained: “We wanted to put the years of experience from HydroGarden towards making an impact on food production by starting to use vertical farming techniques to develop the technology to grow food in countries where maybe space or transport are an issue.

“We believe our food production technology produces better quality produce because fewer nutrients are being lost to ship it across oceans and it is building towards a greener, more sustainable future.

“Food production is a global market and years have been spent developing the technology but it has not been commercialized until now. We knew we had a great product but we needed help in taking it to market. The Growth Hub has helped us reach our ambitions by developing the equipment which we have spent the last seven years researching as well as securing patents now that we are in a position to commercialize V-Farm.

“With their help, we secured a £10,000 Proof of Concept grant so Coventry University Enterprises Limited has been vital in bringing our product to the market faster and it will hopefully give us a head start on our competitors because we have lots of blue-chip companies that are interested in using our equipment.

“We have already supplied units to Brazil, Australia, and China and we will be fully launching V-Farm towards the end of the year.”

Justine Chadwick, account manager at the CWLEP Growth Hub, said V-Farm has developed a flexible high-tech product which is really exciting.

She said: “One of the many ways we assist SMEs in Coventry and Warwickshire is by supporting their innovative ideas to help with their growth plans. V-Farm’s new urban farming idea has been brilliantly developed and is now manufactured here in Coventry to maximize areas throughout the world where food can be grown. It is also reducing our carbon footprint which will help businesses reach their net-zero targets.”

Ilektra Alma Fronista, Business Delivery Manager for Proof of Concept at Coventry University Enterprises, added: “With the Proof of Concept grant program, we aim to support SMEs in Coventry & Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham & Solihull area with their pre-commercialization projects, development of new technologies and innovative ideas.

“V-Farm has developed a new environmentally aware modular solution and accessing the ‘Proof of Concept’ ERDF grant has enabled them to create and test the early-stage prototypes. The grant support has allowed them to move forward faster and reduce the financial risk.”

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