Farquhar is CEO of Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), a company based in Edinburgh but now coming to New Zealand. It has developed technology which it believes will provide part of the solution to both crises – one that is likely to see ‘farms’ springing up in city precincts.
Known as vertical farming, it uses smart technologies to grow vegetables and fruits indoors in a remote, but highly controlled environment. Seedlings are positioned on trays inside modular multi-level structures IGS calls “growth towers”.
Vertical farms may be a common sight in New Zealand in the near future. IGS has clients across four continents, including Australia, and is in the early stages of talking to interested groups in New Zealand. “We are at the exploratory stage, but there are all kinds of reasons why vertical farming will work in New Zealand,” Farquhar says. “We see it as a key to the future of farming, but we are not going to take over the farming industry, nor will it replace traditional farming.
“On its own, vertical farming won’t solve world hunger or climate change – but it is one answer and, we believe, will help in both cases. Ultimately we think up to 30 per cent of the world’s diet could be grown in vertical farms. “Transportation is a big contributor to greenhouse gas emissions,” Farquhar says. “Traditionally grown produce typically travels thousands of miles from farm to plate, especially out-of-season fruits and vegetables which need to be flown in from warmer climates.
“Vertical farms do not require large amounts of land and can be set up in urban areas close to the point of distribution and consumption, significantly reducing emissions from transportation and distribution costs." While IGS is in the early stages of talking to a number of interested parties in New Zealand, its vertical farm technology is becoming established in other parts of the world. One of the more significant developments is a partnership with Madar Farms in Abu Dhabi where there are plans to install five growth towers with the capacity to produce up to 30 tons of leafy greens and herbs a year.
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