VERTICAL FARMING could pave the way to tackling global food insecurity, with Scotland leading the way in developing arguably the world’s most technically advanced indoor farm.

This week, Scottish-based agritech business Intelligent Growth Solutions Ltd revealed the futuristic indoor vertical farming demonstration building at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee.

The building allows scientists to set the environmental parameters for how crops are grown; operating in an air lock environment with bright LED lights, which keep the plants illuminated while vents distribute exact amounts of air, giving them complete control over light, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide and irrigation, with a remit to improve environmental efficiency and waste reduction.

According to its proponents, vertical farming offers reductions in water wastage, the elimination of the use of pesticides and a reduction in food miles. It paves the way for city-centre based food production, which could potentially reduce fresh food waste by up to 90%. Basil is currently being grown in the Dundee vertical farm and under set conditions, can be fully developed in 20 days.

Chief executive of IGS, David Farquhar, explained the huge potential of the indoor farm: “The global horticulture market is crying out for new approaches to enhancing food production in terms of yield, quality and consistency. It is also searching for ways to reduce power consumption and labour costs and our technology has been designed to fundamentally address this.

“What this has the potential to do is to shorten those supply chains and bring the source of production much closer to the point of consumption. Whether that be in cities or whether it be in deserts,” he continued. “That's going to make a very significant difference to the cost of food and the availability of food.”

The Scottish-led team at IGS has developed a 'breakthrough' power and communications platform enabling the reduction of energy usage by 50% and labour costs by 80% when compared with other indoor growing environments. It also can produce yields of up to 200% more than that of a traditional greenhouse.

Derek Stewart, from the James Hutton Institute, commented: "This is a huge step change for crop and plant production globally. It beggar’s belief, I have to be honest, the advances we are seeing in the ability to control how the crops grow, the speed they grow, the quality that they can manipulate.

“I think the opportunity is there for the farmers to take it if they want it. Of course, because it's a closed environment, we could see these in city centres,” he continued. “There's no limit to where you can put them. Why lock up good agricultural land? That doesn't mean that the farmer can't own it, in the city centre environment,” he concluded.