GrowAgri Vertical Farming Conference @ Pershore College

Posted on: 11 March 2020 by Laurence Anderson in Posts

Laurence Anderson is a PhD Student at the Institute. He recently used a Michael Pugh Thomas Award to attend the GrowAgri Vertical Farming Conference in Pershore (22nd -23rd January), organised by the Warwickshire College Group.

The GrowAgri conference brought together over twenty academics and leading Agritech industry experts, and businesses to discuss innovations in vertical farming technologies, exhibit prototypes, and workshop grant proposals.

Vertical farms are extremely novel, complex and technologically advanced systems which combine hydroponics, aquaponics, LED lighting, water filtration techniques to allow crops to be grown in vertically stacked layers. Growing crops vertically allows for more crops to be grown per unit area of land, and soilless growing techniques such as hydroponics and aquaponics promise higher levels of productivity and is more sustainable through lower water usage than traditional soil-based methods.

This conference provided the opportunity for me to represent the University of Liverpool and my industry partner Farm Urban and showcase our research. I gave a 30-minute presentation on my PhD research, mapping nutrient recycling in hydroponic and aquaponic urban farms, as well as, the research of other PhD and Masters students here at the University, covering risk mitigation in vertical farming and the usefulness of EdTech tools in sustainability education.

Attending this conference was extremely useful as an early career researcher: I heard talks and presentations from experts on food safety, algae production, controlled growing environments, genetically modified dwarf tomatoes specifically engineered for vertical stacking, and research & development tax credits; I was given a tour of the two functioning vertical farms at Pershore College and was able to discuss my own research with their Head Growers; and was able to network high-profile professors and business leaders.

This conference has provided me with many exciting opportunities, I have made great connections with numerous start-ups and SMEs looking to install new vertical farming systems, I have discussed possible grant proposals for improving the sustainability of vertical farms, and have built a great relationship with Pershore college and the Warwickshire College Group and we are looking to work with them going forward in implementing Farm Urban’s EdTech tools.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the Michael Pugh Thomas Endowment Fund for its significant contribution towards the travel expenses to attend this superb conference.