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Warehouse expertise for vertical farms

15 July 2021

With vertical farming growing like weeds, space optimisation could well be key to feeding the world, says Harry Watts.

It's well documented that the global population continues to rise at a rapid pace, with current projections suggesting we could have 10 billion hungry mouths to feed in 2050. In the UK alone the ONS predicts the population growing to 72m by 2041. Providing for that many would be challenging enough, but we need to do it while simultaneously reducing emissions, dealing with increasing environmental instability and preventing further destruction of existing ecologically essential habitats. Currently, 38% of the global land surface is already used for agriculture, and according to the Food & Agriculture Organisation's (FAO's) predictive models, we need to increase food production by 70% - within that same space - to satiate the additional demand caused by growing global population and wealth.

While we will inevitably require various technologies and approaches to solve this issue, one solution that combats the sustainability, resiliency, and space-efficacy challenges effectively is Vertical Farming. Already a proven technology in many environments, Vertical Farms have demonstrated that they can produce high-quality, low-emission, competitively priced food in a fraction of the space of a traditional farm.

For example, Harvest.London, a UK-Based Vertical Farm, have significantly reduced their customers' carbon footprint by eliminating waste and lowering transport emissions for their local customers. Harvest's co-founder Chris Davies identified that in total, "we use 95% less water, create 240,000 fewer food-miles and produce 15 times more crop yield per sq. m. than the same produce grown traditionally in the Hills of Italy - and the customer doesn't have to pay a premium."

"However, for Vertical Farming to become a true force in global agriculture and contribute significantly towards our total crop production requirements, it will need to scale into much larger, automated facilities - and increase production density even further."

Achieving this is not, however, entirely straightforward. Patrick Harte, Managing Director of leading Vertical Farm engineering business Cambridge HOK, explains: "when building a vertical farm, you have to create an ecologically complete environment. Light, nutrition, water, temperature, waste, airflow, space... every aspect of a plant's needs must be catered for. Every species crop has a unique requirement for each attribute and grows at a different pace, in a different way and to a different height. Therefore space optimisation and orchestration becomes a fundamental challenge. This is why we've partnered with SEC Storage; to combine our expertise in Vertical Farming with their expertise in space optimisation and automation. Together we can develop and deliver large-scale Vertical Farming solutions that could deliver higher quality crops, on an industrial scale, in a fraction of the footprint when compared with traditional methods."

For us at SEC Storage, this intersection of efficiency and space optimisation is a challenge that we have relished. Over the past twenty years, we've delivered data-driven warehouse solutions to over 1,500 customers and have successfully managed to increase capacity and efficiency through our intelligent use of space. Consequently, we've been leveraging this experience of creating contemporary storage solutions, our award-winning artificially intelligent design technology and cross-industry expertise to develop smart solutions to this novel problem of Vertical Farming.

Harry Watts, managing director, SEC group

For more information, visit www.sec-storage.co.uk