CambridgeHOK, a high-tech horticultural specialist based in East Yorkshire, is embarking on an innovative project to construct a “vertical glasshouse” that will generate thousands of leafy greens, fruit crops and culinary fungi. The next-generation glasshouse, covering an area of 480 sq m, is designed to house plants in a system of 210 vertical towers, each standing nearly three metres high. Hampshire-based seed supplier Seedleaves.com is funding the project, which has secured planning permission after two years of planning. The system will grow a broad range of healthy produce, including fresh lettuce, tomatoes, herbs, strawberries, edible flowers, and micro herbs. The setup will be environmentally friendly, requiring significantly less water than traditional agriculture, and no pesticides or fertilisers.
The project, based at Applegarth Farm in Grayshott, East Hampshire, is the brainchild of specialist urban farm provider Seedleaves.com. This firm, which until now supplied growing towers and hydroponic seedlings, aims to use the project as a template to expand its hyper-local food production to urban environments nationwide. The plants will grow aeroponically and require only water and nutrients. The project will also produce a range of culinary mushrooms, which will supply local consumers and restaurants.
The system is similar to those already in use in 300 other urban farms established across the globe, primarily in the US, Middle East and Europe. With very little space or energy inputs, the farming method requires minimal energy expenditure, making it particularly suitable for rooftop terraces. The project is under the guidance of William Benson, managing director of Seedleaves, who believes that the success of the project will encourage similar projects in the UK.
Alan Frampton, sales manager at CambridgeHOK, has been working with Seedleaves for the past two years preparing and planning the project. The ‘vertical greenhouse’ is the first step of the journey, with a target completion date of next May. The project, which will enlighten the local Southampton community about food sustainability, will include educational tours and classes tailored to cause a movement in the region to start producing fresh produce locally.
“This is a really exciting project and one we believe can lead the way in the UK in terms of hyper-local production of food in urban environments,” adds Benson. “I’m sure there will be a lot of people watching the success of this project as it will demonstrate how food of the highest quality can be grown in places with limited space, in the most efficient and green way as there are no high energy costs either.”