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UK: Frankly assessing existing synergies when building vertical farms to make them truly viable

"Our company mission is committed to the further development of Circular Economy, biomimicry based, technologies and techniques as the key starting point to truly sustainable and optimal technology developments for the future," says Phillip Lee, Managing director at Evolve International.

He continues, "We frequently find that developments in one sector can provide substantial benefit to another, where the whole has more value than the individual parts – nothing in nature works in isolation. By providing focused product development support and technical and promotional assistance to prospective suppliers, we assist in ensuring what is developed is fit for purpose and can be optimally integrated into wider Circular systems. Through project management, we can ensure that these new approaches have been rigorously tested and successfully implemented. This ensures the maximum learning curve from the whole approach, feeding back into continuous improvement for the benefit of all concerned, especially our clients."

Iorweth Esau and Philip Lee with Evolve International

Combining technologies
Evolve works with several international Universities and private research institutions and is focused on identifying and developing new technologies that can genuinely move the built environment and food production toward a more sustainable future. Evolve is committed to the further development of biomimicry techniques as the key starting point to truly sustainable and optimal technology developments for the future.

"I created Evolve off the simple fact that sustainable food production must be 100% sustainable, not partially, and from there on, we became Waste to Water to Energy to Food project development consultants. Once Vertical Farming came into play, we established a deeper and wider knowledge of it," Philip shares. Helping the bigger consultancy players such as Ricardo PLC and AECOM with designing their facilities, always with an experienced practitioner, not just a consultant approach.

Evolve provides its clients with the right tools, from Digital Twining concept design to detailed funding, engineering, and system integration, growing expertise, and Project Management of procurement, construction, and commissioning, and where required, operation. Over time, the team has expanded into a very strong team of international sector experts ranging from all forms of Engineering, food production, and Circular Economy design.

"Not wasting waste"
Bringing in experts from the finance world helped put together real deliverable company developments that, with vertical farming, include the food production outputs. By making such an integrated approach, there should not just be a focus on waste heat and green energy but on nutrient recovery, intermediary development such as algae into Biostimulants, and essentially the comprehensive valorization of all inputs and outputs – exactly as the natural world has been optimizing for 700 million years.

"We respectfully rip apart all the value propositions of vertical farming, add in the benefits of Circular Economy integration, and in doing so valorize the opportunity in its entirety. The word waste meant something completely different to us 500 years ago, using every single thing that came out of a specific resource. That's exactly what we strive to achieve every day too – not because of Climate Change or greening projects to please planners – but because it is the RIGHT thing to do in the first place. In nature, there simply is NO waste."

Vertical farming is still a challenge to achieve real long-term viability at scale, but by taking and locating at sites where full CE integration is possible, the red lights are starting to turn green, especially in challenging environments such as the Gulf states.

What is critical is Location Location Location…
For example, given that Water Water Treatment Plants (WWTPs) are so closely located in all cities and dense population centers and contain all the ingredients of water, waste, and energy production, logistic-wise, it's a win-win to site vertical farm projects at them. Besides that, they are relatively low-value land sites because of the inevitability of the odors, however, it is well mitigated at modern plants that come along with it.

With the drive at these sites to go from land-intensive wastewater processing to the adoption of such as ANerobic Digestion and Gasification technologies, a vertical farm high output/love footprint model of production is an ideal fit. Close to the plant, there is, therefore, often redundant buildings usable for Vertical Farming and redundant land for greenhouses, enabling a wider range of crop production as a food hub center that makes the overall proposition more viable – to planners and investor alike.

Waterways are solved, and the plants are pumping out. Therefore, there's a free source of cooling and anaerobic digestion on-site. According to Phil, Convergence has been conducting 'the most due diligence of vertical farming technology globally. Having NEOM on board most recently, Phill says that they have the farm conducted.

Current projects
Given the substantial amounts of funding involved, Phil explains that pioneering clients such as NEOM City in Saudi Arabia have unlocked the ability to conduct comprehensive and valuable Due Diligence research on all the major vertical farming technologies across the globe, allowing Evolve to assess, review and provide viable solutions based on these analyses.

With NEOM as their latest partner, Phil says they have been researching the multiple Vertical Farming models for the estate's numerous locations and purposes, not just large-scale warehouse vertical farm solutions, as well as thoroughly testing them before deployment in the world for vertical farming piloting facility at the Oxagon site in NEOM. This world's first, first-of-kind facility will be trialing and evaluating multiple systems at once, as well as testing numerous new technologies and materials that have yet to break over into vertical farm use.

"Going away from smoke and mirrors, we can run them for some years so the food divisions can advise the architectural division for this kind of project." If that wasn't enough to take on, Evolve has also been invited to partake in the rebuilding of Ukraine.

Phillip will be speaking at the Vertical Farming World Congress in London, UK next week. Click here to get more insights about the event.

For more information:
Philip Lee, Managing director
Evolve Growing Solutions
[email protected]