London’s Innovation Agri-Tech Group to support University of Essex in developing indoor crop growth facility

Innovation Agri-Tech Group (IAG), a London-based agtech company, announced that it is further cementing its partnership with the University of Essex as the university secured £1M (approximately €1.1M) in funding from The Wolfson Foundation, an independent grant-making charity.

The fund will enable the university to support the development of an indoor crop growth facility, called Smart Technology Experimental Plant Suite (STEPS), at Essex’s Colchester Campus to future-proof crop production for an increasing global population.

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The £3.5M facility will be open by summer 2023 and will include four unique environmental growth rooms.

As a part of the partnership, IAG will install its patented modular system, GrowFrame in the facility. The system uses aeroponic irrigation and closed loop water recycling to provide water and particular nutrients without pesticides to grow plants in a fully automated and adjustable environment.

The GrowFrame, which will be part of a more comprehensive advanced technology system, will feature Artificial Intelligence (AI), environmental sensors, and water management systems.

According to Innovation Agri-Tech Group, the University of Essex will have a facility for extended education, UK outreach, research, experimentation, and knowledge transfer for the real-world application of CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture).

The project is spearheaded by renowned plant physiologist and a key member of the IAG advisory board, Professor Tracy Lawson from Essex’s School of Life Sciences.

Lawson says, “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding from the Wolfson Foundation. This unique facility will build on our world-leading strengths in plant productivity research and allow us to exploit the latest technologies to improve key plant processes.”

She adds, “It will elevate our cross-disciplinary research and work with business stakeholders to address some of the key challenges in agriculture and horticulture. STEPS will also provide a unique platform for community engagement and outreach to increase the visibility of plant science research and highlight the global challenges in this area.”

Innovation Agri-Tech Group: What you need to know

The UK agtech company provides cutting-edge solutions to the traditional challenges of farming, specializing in Indoor Vertical Aeroponics. Indoor agriculture uses up to 95 percent less water than conventional farming and 70 percent less water than hydroponics, claims the company.

The Innovation Agri-Tech Group can create urban food production, reducing food miles and offering the opportunity to provide fresh, clean, nutritious food closer to the consumer.

Kate Brunswick, Business Development Director, says, “The investment and funding from The Wolfson foundation into STEPS is a fantastic moment for the entire vertical farming industry. We know the global population is growing – and predicted to continue to do so rapidly. The traditional methods of farming and food production alone are not enough. The ability to provide adequate nutritional food will continue to be a worldwide challenge as demand increases.”

She adds, “Since 2017, the mission of Innovation Agri-Tech Group has been to provide a cost-effective solution that can be used on a global scale. To grow food to help feed increasing populations – especially in urban spaces or where arable farming is depleting the land due to over-farming. Collaborating with Professor Tracy Lawson and her team at the University of Essex, we’re confident that our technology will help lead the way in future-proofing food security and building climate resilience. It is a hugely exciting project to be a part of and one that is personally close to our objectives.”

The Wolfson Foundation: What you need to know

The Wolfson Foundation is an independent charity focusing on research and education. The platform aims to support civil society by investing in science, health, heritage, humanities, and art projects.

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive of the Wolfson Foundation, says, “New and improved farming methods will be crucial to solving some of the great challenges of the 21st century, not least global food security – especially in the context of a changing climate. The University of Essex has an impressive track record in crop science, and we are delighted to support these experimental facilities. We hope they will assist in making important breakthroughs in sustainable food production.”

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