£500k boost for indoor crop tech that could help UK become more self-sufficient in food

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A Derbyshire firm which makes technology to improve indoor crop yields has received £500,000 to develop a new type of lighting and sensor system.

Light Science Technologies (LST) has been awarded the money from UK innovation agency Innovate UK to build on its expertise in the area.

The business, based on the Hilton Business Park, near Derby, provides lighting and plant growing and monitoring technology in partnership with university research teams.

Its agricultural tech can be used in vertical farming (where crops such as tomatoes are grown in vertically stacked layers), greenhouses, polytunnels and in the cultivation of medicinal plants.

Its sustainable light unit combines interchangeable LEDs, power and other technology to help reduce costs and generate maximum yields.

Its monitoring and control equipment can send instant crop data to technicians, farmers, and facility managers.

The grant is part of Innovate UK’s Farming Initiative Pathway consortium set up to make UK agriculture more sustainable and efficient.

LST’s intelligent LED grow-lighting product is expected to be the first system of its kind designed for polytunnels and glasshouses.

It is hoped it will extend the growing season, enabling farmers to grow a wider variety of produce all year round, while hopefully helping with ongoing labour shortages and reducing the country’s reliance on food imports.

The potential UK market has more than 4,000 industrial growers, producing around 300 types of vegetables, salad crops, and tree and berry fruits.

It is being developed as part of a consortium between LST, Zenith Nurseries and Morrish Engineering, which began in November, and has a potential value of almost £14 million.

Light Science Technologies founder and chief executive Simon Deacon said: “Due to the shorter growing seasons, unpredictable climatic conditions and heavy reliance on manual labour processes, the UK struggles to produce enough food to meet demand.

“We are delighted to have been selected for funding by Innovate UK, which is testament to the potential value of our product in alleviating both these national issues and extending our routes to market.

“We look forward to keeping the market informed with developments as we capitalise on our growing number of routes to market.”

Back in October, LST floated on the London Stock Exchange, raising gross proceeds of £5.2 million in a sale which valued the company at £17.4 million.

It was established in 2019, and currently employs 16 staff at its Derbyshire- HQ and lab facilities and is set on global expansion as demand for growing fresh produce using more sustainable farming methods soars.