First look inside pioneering vertical farm which will strengthen UK’s food security

A pioneering vertical farm in Suffolk is set to complement and boost the region’s traditional farming sector.

OneFarm is a huge agricultural innovation, withtechnology capable of growing high volumes of sustainably produced food to support the UK’s drive towards self-sufficiency.

Nine-metre-high growing towers have been built inside the 70,000 sq ft development – one of the largest in the UK – which was previously a disused Newmarket warehouse.

The towers will produce a range of vegetables, herbs and greens on demand to avoid waste and unnecessary harvesting, with no pesticides used during the growing process. Agreements are being put in place to supply selected retailers.

The Suffolk development is a prime example of collaboration between private and public finance. Funding includes a £2.5m loan from New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Growing Places Fund and an investment platform developed by Abundance Investment which raised £3.8m. Finance was also provided by CreditForce, Intelligent Growth Solutions and OneFarm’s directors.

Construction of the first phase began in autumn 2022 and is scheduled to be fully operational early this year.

OneFarm say their approach to the growing and distribution of food reflects an evolving consumer desire to understand where 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.

Representatives from West Suffolk Council and New Anglia LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership), along with investors, were treated to a tour of the Newmarket facility last month.

Speaking at the event. LEP Chair C-J Green said, 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.

“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 added: “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 large scale 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 said: “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.”

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