Scotland: £2 million vertical farm plan back on track

Plans to bring a £2 million renewable energy-powered vertical farm to Orkney are progressing as councilors received an update from Orkney College UHI’s principal. The project has been put together to explore how vertical farms could be used on the islands to grow crops on a scale that could not be grown otherwise.

A report put before the sub-committee says vertical farms would be “companions not competitors” to traditional farms. Ingredients for use in local foods would be grown, such as botanicals for spirits and herbs for meat and fish. It is hoped the project would foster similar ones in Shetland, the Outer Hebrides, and the Highlands. Professor Edward Abbott-Halpin painted a positive picture as he updated members of the college management council sub-committee of the project’s progression on Monday. He said the project, which is being developed by the college, is back “on target” and there is “no reason” it cannot move forward.

The project is being brought forward under the island's growth deal and is still at its early stages. An outline business case is currently being prepared. Prof Abbott-Halpin said the most important part of the project is looking at models for the farm to inform the business case. This will shape how the project is taken forward to the government.

Joint funding of £2million from the UK and Scottish governments have been earmarked for the Orkney project’s set-up costs. However, the report to the sub-committee says “ongoing additional support” will be needed. Resources are also mooted to be an issue as the college has “limited in-house technical knowledge or staff resource”.

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