Start-up to launch one of UK’s biggest vertical farms in London next year

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One of the UK’s largest vertical farms could be launched in London next year by a business which supplies basil grown in a Leyton warehouse.

Vertical farming

The 5,000 square metre site planned by Harvest London will be fully automated and net zero, said co-founder Chris Davies and would have the ability to supply 0.1% of the UK’s total herb import.

It is both resource and space efficient because the plants are grown on shelves under LED lights.

The farms can be located in cities which would cut out the CO2 cost of importing food.

“Fundamentally we’re a manufacturing organisation,” he told the Standard. “We just so happen to be manufacturing green leafy vegetables.”

He said compared to traditional agriculture, vertical farming can grow 350 times the amount of produce in the same space with 95 per cent less water and 95 per cent less fertiliser.

Electricity is the biggest cost for the business – so the business switches on the lights during the night when it is cheapest.

Plants are grown under UV lights in a warehouse (Octopus Energy Business)
Plants are grown under UV lights in a warehouse (Octopus Energy Business)

“The plants don’t care when ‘nighttime’ is, as long as they get one,” said Mr Davies.

Octopus Energy, which supplies Harvest, has launched a specific renewable energy tariff which lets businesses see prices at half-hour intervals.

“We were working with lots of small businesses and what we noticed is that there’s lots of ideas that are huge game changers into the future,” said Octopus Energy for Business CEO Zoisa North-Bond.

“If we can get those users using electricity in the right way – clean, green electricity – we could help actually drive down the cost for the electricity in their business models, which helps them grow at scale.”

Harvest is in the final stages of raising the funds for its proposed site to open in the first quarter of 2023.