Horticultural lighting experts, Vertically Urban, and aeroponic farming company LettUs Grow, have been collaborating to boost the research capabilities of an award-winning vertical farm in York. Known as 'Grow it York,' the facility is home to a research team headed by Professor Katherine Denby from the Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP) at the University of York.
Housed in one of LettUs Grow's state-of-the-art DROP & GROW™ container farms, Grow It York sits at the heart of the city as part of an outdoor community space called SPARK. Grow it York was born out of the broader 'FixOurFood' program to investigate the role that vertical farming can play in creating positive change within our food systems, benefiting our health, environment, and economy.
FixOurFood is a research collaboration between several academic institutions. It aims to transform local food networks and develop regenerative systems that will create a fairer and more sustainable future for food production, retail, and consumption. These aims perfectly align with both Vertically Urban and LettUs Grow's company missions.
Over recent months, teams from both companies have been working tirelessly to retrofit the Grow it York farm. The facility now features a full complement of tunable spectrum Horti-Blade™ grow lights alongside an enhanced version of Ostara® farm management software. This joint investment, funded by Vertically Urban and LettUs Grow, respectively, will greatly increase the scope of the research that can be conducted by the facility, boosting the potential overall impact of the program.
Vertically Urban's Horti-Blade
Professor Katherine Denby added, "The installation of Vertically Urban's tunable spectrum lights, coupled with the upgraded Ostara® farm management software, is a significant advance for our vertical farm research. It means we can not only look at varietal selection for vertical farms but also look at how changing the intensity and spectrum of light impacts the yield and quality of crops. With Dr. Daphne Ezer's computational biology group, for example, we are looking at how a gradual sunrise might benefit yield."
The mutually beneficial partnership will see the ongoing free exchange of expertise and data. The overarching aim is to inform the development and deployment of LED lighting in vertical farms to create positive changes within food systems - benefiting health, the environment, and the economy.
"The University of York is a world-renowned research institution right on our doorstep, so I'm truly excited about the opportunities that this relationship brings," said Andrew Littler, Vertically Urban's CEO. He continued, "It's taken a lot of hard work to get to this point, and I couldn't think of a better partner than LettUs Grow to work with, and I look forward to seeing the relationship blossom as we go."
LettUs Grow's aeroponic technology
Ben Crowther, Chief Technical Officer at LettUs Grow, added, "Grow it York was one of our first DROP & GROW farms, and with this upgrade, the research it generates has the chance to truly impact the vertical farming industry." He added, "earlier this year, we announced our partnership with Vertically Urban to install Horti-Blade as standard in our DROP & GROW container farms, and this collaboration strengthens those ties. Horti-blade lights have incredibly good efficiency and form factor, helping us achieve our goal of producing powerful, impact-driven products for our customers."