Jake - vertical farming at reaseheath college

The UK’s largest training and research centre for vertical farming has been completed at Reaseheath College and University Centre in Nantwich.

Vertical farming is the practice of growing plants indoors under fully controlled and sterile conditions in stacked layers.

The Vertical Farming Centre is part of the Institute of Sustainability and Food Innovation.

It’s a joint venture between Reaseheath and its academic partner, the University of Chester.

The project aims to showcase the technological innovations within the fast growing and specialised sector and offers undergraduates and businesses applied research and technical training.

Reaseheath also plans to link with local schools, particularly in the practical application of digital and STEM subjects.

Covering 200 square metres, the main facility has three floors to ceiling growing chambers and a separate research growing room.

The project has been supported by Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership, which has contributed £340,000 through its Local Growth Fund.

This government funding is available for projects which benefit the local area and its economy.

Simon Burgess, Reaseheath’s Head of Projects, Research and Innovation, said: “This is an exceptionally exciting project which offers tremendous benefits to both our students and our academic and industry partners.

“University Centre Reaseheath is extremely good at applying practical science to commercial research and this will open up a lot of opportunities, for instance through our ability to set up trials and develop the optimum conditions for growing particular crops.”

Clare Hayward, Chair of the Cheshire and Warrington LEP, added: “Innovation in agriculture is important for all our futures and central to the agenda we are progressing through our Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission.

“Vertical Farming comes with the promise of increased crop yields from a smaller area of land, along with many other benefits, and Cheshire students need to be able to access this 21st century technology.”

Martin Ellis, Director of iGrowing Ltd, said: “It will provide excellent hands-on access for students and businesses and enable them to fully understand the benefits, both commercial and environmental, of these growing systems.

“There is no doubt that vertical farming will play a greater part in sustainable crop production in the future.”

Crop Production Supervisor Jake Jackson, a University Centre Reaseheath graduate, is in charge of the day to day management of the new facility.

He said: “I’m extremely excited as to where this might lead.

“Who knows, in the future we may see vertical farms on supermarket roofs!”

(Pic: Jake Jackson tends crops in Reaseheath’s new Vertical Farming Centre)

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