A first glimpse has been given into a pioneering vertical farm with technology capable of growing high volumes of sustainably produced food and supporting the UK’s drive towards self-sufficiency.
Nine-metre-high growing towers can be found inside the OneFarm development, built in a disused warehouse in Newmarket. These will produce a range of vegetables, herbs and greens on demand to avoid waste and unnecessary harvesting, and there will be agreements in place to supply selected retailers.
No pesticides will be used to grow the crops and the giant facility represents an agricultural innovation which will complement and boost the region’s traditional farming sector.
The development in Suffolk is a prime example of collaboration between private and public finance. The £2.5m loan from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Places Fund sat alongside an investment platform developed by Abundance Investment, which raised £3.8million. Finance has also been provided by CreditForce, Intelligent Growth Solutions and One Farm’s directors.
Representatives from West Suffolk Council and New Anglia LEP, along with investors, on Thursday 2 February were given a first look inside. Construction of the first phase began in autumn 2022 and is schedule to be fully operational in early 2023.
“Vertical farming will be a key contributor to the UK Net Zero target, from lower artificial nutrient requirements to the use of shorter transport and supply chains,” said LEP Chair C-J Green.
“The farm will contribute significantly to crop science and research across the agri-tech sector and will also cater to the desire for localised and sustainable supply chains that ensure greater food security for local populations.
“It will also contribute to the world-leading science and research base that exists in the East of England in relation to sustainable food production, land use and climate resilience.”
OneFarm’s CEO Mira Merme thanked all the attendees and said: “Innovation and disruptive businesses are really supported when investment decisions such as those made for with us by Suffolk County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership. We are truly grateful and will deliver on our remit to provide largescale environmentally sustainable, tasty nutritious affordable food for local populations.”
Cllr John Griffiths, Leader of West Suffolk Council said: “We are delighted that OneFarm have chosen Newmarket for their innovative farming project; they join a range of world class agri-tech businesses that call West Suffolk home. The council strives to support and engage with new and existing businesses in the area to create an environment that encourages growth.”
Cllr Susan Glossop, Cabinet Member for Growth, West Suffolk Council, added: “We are pleased to have worked with New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership to help facilitate OneFarm with their investment in Newmarket. Supporting the development of one of the largest vertical farms in the UK reinforces that West Suffolk is the location for innovation and investment. The farm is expected to assist crop research and development, with a focus on environmental impact and food security.”
OneFarm’s approach to the growing and distribution of food reflects an evolving consumer desire to understand where their food is coming from and for the supply chain to ensure availability and quality of produce.
The focus on environmental and economic sustainability has increased dramatically in recent years, accompanied by the imperative need for food security. This has been further driven by the constraints of the pandemic on global trade and the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.