Growers across Wales reached great heights thanks to a revolutionary vertical farming project on Anglesey.
Following a successful two-year programme, the Tech Tyfu initiative – delivered by Menter Môn – is set to continue until Summer 2024 via Welsh Government’s Backing Local Firms Fund.
The Tech Tyfu Scale-Up project aimed to provide vertical farming equipment and businesses support to growers across the country, with a goal of developing food supply chains for fresh produce.
Among the participants to praise the scale-up scheme were Chris and Donna Graves from Micro Acres Wales, based in Church Village, Pontypridd.
As well as crucial guidance and advice, they received equipment and support that helped them develop micro greens using sustainable, water-based hydroponic methods.
Fresh from winning the outstanding restaurant supplier of the year award at Food and Drink Awards Wales, Chris – a police custody officer who was diagnosed with rare brain condition spinocerebellar ataxia in 2019 – said the last few years have been a rollercoaster ride.
“We started growing microgreens after seeing something on social media and began with a tray of radish on a windowsill,” he said.
“From there things took off, we had to keep increasing the space it was taking up in the garage and now we are at the point of moving into a new 50ft x 28ft facility to accommodate the micro vegetables and edible flowers we are producing.
“We began supplying family, friends and neighbours during the pandemic, so to now be in this position, and to have just won such a prestigious award, is amazing.”
School teacher Donna added: “The help we had from Tech Tyu has gone beyond the equipment, they are only ever a phone call away and have been so encouraging, we really could not have done this without them.
“With the new unit especially, they believed in us and supported it when others didn’t. With their backing and that and that of the network of growers they introduced us to, we are excited for the future.
“There is a community on hand all helping one another, which is wonderful and together as a collective we are going from strength to strength thanks to Tech Tyfu.”
Vertical farming allows growers to control the environment of their crop, which improves water and nutrient use efficiency by up to an order of magnitude, as well as allowing them to create the conditions necessary to grow out of season crops, reducing pressure on the food supply chain as well as transport, packaging, and refrigeration costs.
Tech Tyfu senior project officer David Wylie congratulated Chris and Donna on their success and says the impact of the scheme has been heartening.
“We have been with Micro Acres Wales and so many other growers on their journey over the last few years and seen the scale-up initiative go from strength to strength,” said David.
“As well as delivering bespoke, flood and drain vertical farming equipment, built by design engineer Wyn Griffith, we have been on hand for research and development, ran a series of ‘Meet the Buyer’ events and held stakeholder workshops for the cluster of growers, which reach across Wales.
“Together we have achieved a lot in a short space of time, and now the project has been extended we can build on those foundations and do even more to support the food and drink industry and local independent producers and growers across Wales.”