Could the future of crop production be heading indoors and upwards?
A novel concept currently being trialled at Paignton zoo in Devon grows plants in trays of water moving on a conveyor belt. The method claims to use less land and only 5% of the water usually needed.
The company behind the system, Valcent (www.valcent.net) say it is a sustainable solution to the world’s diminishing resources. The hydroponic system rotates the plants on a conveyor belt via a “feeding station” to create airflow and stimulate growth.
According to Chris Bradford, MD of Valcent, a 100sq metre machine, like the one installed at Paignton Zoo, can grow up to 11,200 plants, which, he says, is 20 times more than could be grown conventionally in a field covering the same area. The system is designed to be “eco-friendly” using solar power or wind energy, with the water used to grow the plants being recycled.
This could be a useful way of re-using redundant urban buildings or brown field sites, rather than further industrial expansion into the countryside or the green belt.