Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is set to become the first higher education institute in Scotland to open a vertical farm for research and education purposes.
The project has received a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Government and will be used in key research into plant and crop science.
The half million-pound facility, housed at the King’s Building campus in Edinburgh, will grow nutrient-dense fruit and vegetables that have specific human health qualities.
It will also analyse crop yield and growth rates with all resource inputs to compare their carbon footprint to other production systems.
According to SRUC, the vertical farm will operate on renewable energy sources from the national grid, supported by battery technology to manage peaks in energy demand.
Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, said: “As we look to produce more fruits and vegetables locally, vertical farming could provide us with a way to make better use of our land.
“It’s an exciting and innovative field that could bring us real benefits and it is important that we have the skills in Scotland to take advantage of this technology.”
Gougeon added that the project will assess the benefits of long-term farming to help “focus” the government’s long-term strategy on vertical farming.
She said: “We will also be reaching out to the wider industry to explore in further detail the opportunities low-carbon vertical farming offers. We will work together to establish the future of vertical farming in Scotland.”
With only a handful of commercial vertical farms currently in the country, the facility will be important for demonstration and knowledge exchange with farmers, growers and small businesses, giving vital support and promoting innovation.
Professor Wayne Powell, Principal and Chief Executive of SRUC, commented: “One of the most critical challenges we face is how to feed a growing global population.
“We have been teaching farmers for generations but, as the population increases, it is important that we look at growing different, more nutritious crops to support healthy diets and local access to food.
“Not only will this vertical farming unit be a valuable asset to our students, but it will also provide us with important data to help optimise and promote innovation into this expanding industry.”