Reflecting on a light(n)ing year
Please excuse the lame play on words - we're just pretty excited about everything we've achieved over 2019! And we pride ourselves on being a company that takes the time to critically reflect on and appreciate what we have achieved and what we'd like to in the future.
Our goal at Liberty Produce remains the same as the start of 2019; to drive innovations that will enable the UK and the world to meet our crop requirements over the next century, without harming the planet. Over this year, we have taken vital, groundbreaking steps towards transforming the UK agricultural industry by reducing barriers to the widespread adoption of fully controlled, vertical farming systems. We believe vertical farming will be an essential part of creating a more sustainable farming infrastructure over the next decade and it is imperative that we continue to innovate, collaborate, build and push the boundaries of what is possible in order to make this happen.
We've included some of our highlights from 2019 here and we have some awesome new projects set to launch in 2020, so make sure you keep your eyes on our blog, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn activity to keep updated.
In January, Liberty was awarded a huge grant of £990,000 from Innovate UK to revolutionise vertical farming, leading a consortium of eleven other partners in a £1.3 million project. This grant supports the creation of integrated technology systems which aim to reduce operational costs by 25%, improve crop yield by 30% and reduce grower intervention through support and automation technologies.
The work on this project started in September and will be ongoing through 2020 and into 2021 so be sure to sign up to our newsletter or follow us on Medium if you want to receive updates on the research outcomes.
In June, Liberty launched its new lighting solution, the Folio Nova at the renowned GreenTech show in Amsterdam. The lights, built from the ground up, have been designed to deliver improved energy efficiency and high yield. The LED placement, external drivers and in-built water cooling system make them perfect for the cultivation of crops in indoor systems.
We also had lots of interest in our newest technology, the Liberty Hydrobubble Generator which increases the yields of plants grown in hydroponic systems through the supersaturation of oxygen in the growing media. This technology is currently undergoing testing and will be commercially available to growers in 2020.
GreenTech provided a great opportunity to meet and talk with so many diverse specialists, companies and people with like-minded goals towards creating solutions for a sustainable food production future.
Category B CHAP Partners
In July, Liberty Produce was announced as a CHAP Category B Partner. CHAP partnered with Liberty to help accelerate the development of the UK vertical farming sector. CHAP’s mandate is to increase crop productivity for future generations through the uptake of new technologies. The partnership marked another important step towards transforming UK agriculture to become more sustainable by driving innovation in the vertical farming sector.
The pinnacle of the year was the launch of the Innovation Hub for Controlled Environment Agriculture (IHCEA). This is a research and development system focused on the development and evaluation of technologies for controlled environment agriculture (CEA). The facility was successfully launched in October with our partners at CHAP (Crop Health and Protection) with co-funding from Innovate UK and with the support of the team at the James Hutton Institute . For much of 2019, our entire team remained focused on the building and delivery of the IHCEA and it remains a significant achievement for all of us.
We built the system with a huge amount of support and with a pretty intense learning curve for all involved in the process. We learned that the devil really is in the detail; from ensuring that our Folia Nova lights were fit in an optimal way to maximise yield, to agreeing on the details of the pumps, filters and tanks, no detail could be overlooked. With integrated cutting-edge LED lighting systems and patented nutrient delivery technologies, this unique research facility will enable collaboration between industry, academia and government to effectively tackle the barriers to widespread adoption of vertical farming. We look forward to continuing our experimentation and crop trials in the facility in 2020!
On October 12th, CHAP and Liberty, with the help of UK Government Minister Colin Clark, officially opened the Innovation Hub for Controlled Environment Agriculture (IHCEA) at the James Hutton Institute’s site in Invergowrie. The IHCEA is a key component of Liberty Produce’s Future Farming Hub, which will offer a wide range of services, including research and development and CEA training programmes within a commercial demonstrator system, as well as industry and academic collaboration opportunities.
Following the ICHEA launch, we had some terrific press coverage. This included a Scottish TV feature in their evening news programme with beautiful footage of our vertical farm as well as pieces by The Herald Scotland, The Agronomist and Arable Farmer, The Scottish Farmer, The Scotsman and The Evening Telegraph! These thoughtful pieces also focused on the wider implications for a sustainable farming future.
2019 has been an incredibly busy and successful year and our plans for 2020 are even more ambitious! We’ll continue to update you on our progress via the usual channels, sign up to our newsletter or reach out to us if you have any questions, feedback or are interested in collaborating or contributing to our blog. We’re always happy to hear from you. In the meantime, we’d like to thank you for your support and wish you a very Happy New Year!