Self-described ‘environmental investor’, Earthworm, has recently ploughed a further £1.1m into Vertical Future, a tech company ‘focused on building a better, more sustainable urban food production and supply chain’.
The company is quickly becoming a market leader in the UK with its controlled-environment food production processes. As opposed to conventional farming practise, Vertical Future employs a range of vertical farming techniques which sees food being grown in a completely controlled indoor environment. Nutrients are sprayed onto the plants with the assistance of an automated AI system – the same system regulates the temperature and light conditions of the room – making for a much more efficient method of farming.
Due to the entirely artificial environment, produce is not required to be grown in the way we might expect. Instead of vast, seasonal fields, Vertical Future is able to grow its goods in large, vertical warehouses. This mitigates the need for, large areas of space for products to root in, seasonal produce, wasteful irrigation systems, and fertile areas of land upon which to grow.
While the development – and subsequent investment – of these technologies is always interesting to see, solutions such as vertical and hydroponic farming are brought into even sharper focus given the situation in the world today.
With over 60% of the world’s population projected to be living in cities in the next twenty years, the practicalities of feeding such a dense group of citizens are being brought into question. Many cities are miles away from any appropriate farming ground, meaning that vast quantities of food are being transported across countries to satiate the swelling populations of cities; the carbon emissions of this transportation only compound the impact large-scale farming already has on the environment.
In a similar vein, the pandemic we see in the world today serves to highlight the weaknesses in many of our production and distribution processes. Countries today rely on hugely complex and intertwined supply-chain networks in order to procure a lot of the produce we see in shelves at the supermarket. If the costs and land necessities associated with traditional farming practises were lifted by the onset of hydroponic farming, many cities would be able to incorporate vertical farming arrangements into their skylines with relative ease. In the face of another world-tilting problem, be it a pandemic, war, or natural disaster, perhaps being more self-sufficient would prove valuable.
We are taking to a number of companies at the moment with promising futures, whatever C-19 hols in store for us. Investors, whilst cautious, still wish to see opportunities that will make good bolt-ons or when the future becomes clearer great platforms.
Vertical farming will be at the forefront of food production in the years to come; it is poised to help solve one of the biggest issues of our time – how to feed a growing population sustainably