Writtle University College hosts horticulture trial

November 2020

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(NOTE: This is an archived press release.)

An innovative horticulture trial is underway at Writtle University College in Essex. A state of the art vertical growing system could represent the next big step in food production. The system, installed by iGrowing Limited working in conjunction with leading UK plant propagation company, Plant Raisers Limited, is an EIRA supported project. It aims to investigate the benefits of DC-based LED lighting within a controlled growing environment.

The system may offer a viable, sustainable alternative to the AC-based systems currently used for LED lit crop production. Current AC LED growing systems remain energy intensive. DC could remove the need to withdraw excess heat and offering further potential to integrate energy storage technology, wind-turbines and to operate off-grid.

Dr Anya Perera, Head of School for Sustainable Environments and Design at Writtle University College, said: "We are delighted to carry out cutting edge research in partnership with industry leaders. We will be working closely with EIRA, iGrowing and Plant Raisers to evaluate this project's potential to make an impact within the agri-food sector."

Significant market opportunities exist in UK protected horticulture sector to radically change and increase locally-grown crop production systems to ensure long-term sustainability of all year-round UK salad and vegetable crops and reducing dependence on imported products, generating both economic and environmental benefits. This is especially the case in South East England and East Anglia, where there are large numbers of established glasshouse enterprises.

WUC postgraduate student and research technician for the project, Liam King, will be working on the project. He explained: "Vertical crop production combined with LED lights, shows high potential to improve sustainability of crop production, by maximizing land use. The unit takes this one step further, with its solar array and DC power supply, it has the potential to be placed anywhere without the need for access to the national grid."