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Bringing The Outside In – Innovating for Controlled Environment Agriculture

Tuesday 19th March 2019 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Bringing the Outside In

In association with the Association for Vertical Farming

Kindly sponsored by Innovate UKInnovate UK

Controlled Environment Agriculture aims to create the optimum growing conditions, allowing year-round cropping of a wide range of high value, fresh produce closer to the point of consumption.

Growing within a hygienic environment offers many benefits:

  • Quality control – there is less requirement for plant protection chemicals, resulting in fewer residues in the products
  • Tighter forecasting – production can be more closely aligned with market needs, thereby reducing waste
  • Improved nutrition and taste – the growing medium can be tightly controlled to deliver high value crops
  • Overcome seasonality – crops can be grown all year, enabling continuous cropping and also scope to grow exotics
  • Improved productivity – vertical farming in industrial or retail units increases the growing area available for food production
  • Plant production on non-agricultural land – closed environments can be used to grow ingredients for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and industrial applications

This one-day conference creates an opportunity to hear about new growing systems, the challenges, the business case and the experiences of early adopters.

  • Hydroponics to grow crops use nutrients in water. Technologies include:
    – a deep-water system which offers higher nutrient levels and good ventilation control to provide greater consistency in temperature.
    – 3D hydroponic towers which combined with genomics improves quality traits and reduces cost of production
  • Vertical soilless growing systems that uses less water and maximise growing space available
  • Aeroponics – a plant cultivation technique where the plant roots are exposed in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.
  • Aquaponic urban farm – which combines two well-established farming practices – aquaculture (farming fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in a nutrient solution without soil) in a recirculating system.

The challenges of implementing a controlled environment solution.

  • G’s Fresh are assessing the feasibility of converting a large standard greenhouse facility
  • GrowUp Urban Farms share the learnings of six years scaling up its production facilities and describe what is needed to integrate it into the supply chain.
Bringing The Outside In - Phytoponics
Bringing The Outside In - GrowUp
Innovation Agri-Tech Agritechture


10.00     Registration and coffee

10.30     Introduction     

Lindsay Hargreaves, Managing Director, Frederick Hiam Ltd

10.40    Taking Intensive Hydroponic Crop Production to a New Level

Dr Paul Challinor, co-founder and CTO of the Jones Food Company

11.15     Technologies for Controlled Environment Food Production

A series of presentations of the development pipeline of new innovations for controlled environment agriculture and their potential for different markets.

David May, Senior Project Manager, Lincoln Institute for Agricultural Technologies

Shedding light on indoor farming

Adam Dixon, CEO, Phytoponics

Advanced cultivation technology for high wire protected edibles

Jason Hawkins-Row, CEO, Aponic

Meaningful core market diversification opportunities for UK farmers

Dan Hewitt, CEO, GroPod

Title TBC

12.15     Lunch

13.15     Bridging the Innovation Gap

Bringing ideas from proof-of-concept to commercial scale reality is a major challenge, often requiring capital investment, changes in process and practice and a compelling narrative, led by a credible team that gives confidence that the innovation will work. In this session we explore the challenges and enablers by which new CEA solutions can become mainstream.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Head of Novel Growing Systems, Stockbridge Technology Centre

A test-bed for new CEA innovations (TBC)

Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics, Cambridge Consultants

Make or Buy?  The commercial and technical drivers for automation in vertical farming

Ande Gregson, Founder, Green Lab

Greens in a box: Nurturing early stage agritech ventures

Rob Wylie, Chairman, Cambridge Agritech

Investing in CEA businesses

14.30     Integrating Into the Supply Chain

What, if any, is the anticipated impact on CEA on the fresh produce supply chain? What is the potential for hyper-local, ultra-fresh produce to command a premium price? Or will a reduction in cold-chain logistics requirements bring prices down? How could large agri-business and smaller producers find their places in the supply chain, and what is the likely impact for consumers? What factors would influence the decision for growers to include CEA in their production systems?

Ben Barnes, Innovation and Research Associate, G’s Fresh

Title TBC

Kate Hofman, CEO, GrowUp Farms

Things we’ve learned from GrowingUp

Jaz Singh, CEO, Innovation Agri-Tech

The Green Revolution in CEA; Commercial Scale Aeroponics

15.30     The People Factor

The potential for CEA to generate products with increased nutritional benefits, altered flavours or to supply healthy nutritious food cheaply and quickly in disaster areas is significant. In this session we explore the opportunities for CEA on human physical and mental well-being through nutrition and flavour, as well as how crop production can be integrated in city and building design through creative architecture and planning.

Arnoud Witteveen, CTO, Saturn Bioponics

Title TBC

Tom Cox, former student, Leicester School of Architecture, De Montford University,

Designing buildings for vertical farming

16.00     Closing Comments

16.15     Event close


Adam Dixon, Phytoponics

Adam Dixon

CEO, Phytoponics

Phytoponics has developed a novel approach to deep-water hydroponics that incorporates deep-water culture, ebb and flood system, aeration, ventilation and plant support, all within an innovative growing module design. The flexible system provides an affordable entry into hydroponics and is quick to install.

Co-founder and CEO Adam Dixon was chosen to be a UN Young Champion of the Earth 2017 following his work evaluating establishing a hydroponic farm next to a refugee camp.

Alex Brooks, Canaccord Genuity

Alex Brooks

Senior Analyst, Canaccord Genuity

Alex Brooks is an experienced capital markets professional, working in energy, resources, sustainability and materials for more than 20 years in a range of roles. He has spent much of the past two years building the Canaccord franchise in cannabis in Europe, where we have done three significant transactions (EMMAC, Brains Bioceuticals, and Bridge Farm) as well as presenting at numerous conferences and events. Canaccord is a multi-sector mid-market broker, and is the largest fundraiser for the cannabis industry worldwide.

Ande Gregson

Founder and Director, Green Lab

Ande has 25+ years of experience working in high growth industries including Apple, Yahoo, UK Telecoms, Media, TV and early stage start-ups. He has an active interest in developing projects that have sustainable and positive ecological impact on the planet. Founder of Green Lab (www.greenlab.org) as well as Fab Lab London (www.fablablondon.org), he is currently developing new Green Lab propositions for early stage sustainable business incubation, innovative agriculture and new materials development. East London Innovators Winner in 2019, Ande is a thought leader at the forefront of innovation when it comes to tackling waste, sustainable materials research and improving our food systems.

Anthony Gardiner

Marketing Director, G’s Fresh

Anthony is a well-known face within the UK produce industry as Marketing Director for G’s Fresh. As fresh food industry specialist, Anthony joined G’s from Tesco in 2008 and has led the G’s team’s consumer insight, NPD, PR and marketing functions.

Since 2017 Anthony has been a Non-Executive Director in Zero Carbon Foods t/a Growing Underground and has supported the team to make the breakthrough to supplying vertically farmed produce to UK retail. A firm believer that vertically farmed product has a place in the future supply chain, Anthony is clear that it must add incremental consumer value and be able to compete with established traditional agriculture.

Arnoud Witteveen, Saturn Bioponics

Arnoud Witteveen

CTO, Saturn Bioponics

Saturn Bioponics is an advanced hydroponic science and technology company delivering sustainable solutions with a rapid payback.

Arnoud Witteveen joined Saturn Bioponics in 2015 to take forward the R&D with particular focus on hydroponic science. His work focuses on controlling the variables delivering consistent crop yields and quality including phytochemicals, shelf-life and overall nutritional values.

Ben Barnes, Gs

Ben Barnes

Innovation & Research Associate, G’s Fresh

G’s Growers Ltd is an independent producer organisation with 20 grower members in the UK and Spain. G’s Growers’ crop range includes wholehead and babyleaf salad, celery, radish, onions, salad onions, beetroot, mushrooms, Chinese leaf and leeks. Collectively G’s Growers farm over 7,500 hectares of specialist crop which they harvest, process or pack for sale onto their end customers.

Ben Barnes has recently joined G’s and heads up the research into controlled environment cropping.

Chris Roberts, Cambridge Consultants

Chris Roberts

Head of Industrial Robotics, Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants is a global product development and technology consultancy firm providing outsourced research and development services.

Chris Roberts is a physicist with a broad technology background encompassing robotics, machine vision, security, cryptography and authentication, digital electronic engineering, algorithm design and system engineering, with an emphasis on low power solutions.


Dan Hewitt

CEO, GroPod

GroPod is developing next generation growing systems that use aeroponics techniques for root vegetables and research crops. Aeroponics is a plant-cultivation technique where the plant roots are exposed in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.

Dan Hewitt is the owner, founder and CEO of GroPod, and has two decades of agricultural experience which has included roles such as head of agriculture for Kettle Foods UK, running Grower Groups and sitting on the Board of the AHDB Potatoes Sector.

David May

Senior Project Manager, LIAT

David joined the University of Lincoln in January 2018 as a Senior Project Manager for LIAT (Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology).

David May is an agronomist by training, having studied Horticulture at the University of Reading and worked for ADAS as a crop advisor. David runs his own consultancy business alongside his work for LIAT, providing expert advice on food, flowers and plant quality.  David specialises in the impact of supply chains on product quality and in particular, temperature management and damages through handling. He has extensive experience in QA and supply chain processes. He helps business optimise quality whilst using their resources efficiently.

Dr Lydia Smith

Director, NIAB Innovation Farm & Eastern Agri-Tech Innovation Hub

Lydia leads Interactive farmer-facing research into sustainable farming; especially soil health, crop genetic improvement and waste minimisation. She lectured in soil science, crop microbial interactions, environmental biology/land reclamation before moving to NIAB. At NIAB-Innovation Farm interactive demonstrations promote knowledge exchange and innovation uptake, and at the EAI Hub there is incubation and research resource provision for SMEs and academics, with an additional focus on sustainable use of heat and power to drive innovation.

George McBride

CEO, Hanway Associates

George McBride is a commercial barrister turned cannabis reform advocate and industry consultant. He co-founded Cannabis Europa, Hanway Associates and First Wednesdays. Hanway Associates is a strategic consultancy specialising in the cannabis sector which specialises in growth strategies, market access, product launches, operational excellence, business development and strategic partnerships in the nascent cannabis sector.

Luuk Graamans, Wageningen - Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Ir. Luuk Graamans

PhD Researcher and Engineer, Wageningen University & Research

Luuk Graamans is a doctoral candidate from Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), who is currently working as a researcher at Wageningen University & Research (WUR). The business unit Greenhouse Horticulture (WUR) and Climate Design & Sustainability (TU Delft) are investigating the feasibility of vertical farming as a new production system. Luuk’s past research has shown that the effectiveness of Controlled Environment (CE) agriculture depends on a complex interaction of production method, systems engineering, and the yield and costs of energy, water and CO2.

WUR and TU Delft have joined forces to calculate the feasibility of vertical farms in 5 steps. The first step investigates how plants process energy in a closed cultivation system. The second step concerns the total energy demand: how much energy does vertical farming need? Step 3 focuses on optimising this energy consumption and step 4 on the integration of the vertical farm into the city. Ultimately, this information is used in step 5 to calculate the true feasibility of (urban) vertical farming.

Jack Farmer, LettUs Grow - Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Jack Farmer

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer, LettUs Grow

Jack Farmer is the Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of LettUs Grow, a start-up using innovative aeroponic technology to design the next-generation of indoor farms.
Their mission is to reduce the waste and carbon footprint of fresh produce by empowering anyone to grow delicious food near its point of consumption.

He’s a passionate advocate for the use of social enterprise, policy and the circular economy to bring about a more sustainable future. Jack specialises in controlled environment agriculture and its use as a means to reduce agricultural pressures upon natural ecosystems.

Jamie Burrows

CEO, Vertical Future

Jamie Burrows is Founder and CEO and Vertical Future, a London-based technology company specialised in controlled-environment-agriculture (CEA).
Established in 2016, Vertical Future design, build, and license advanced hardware and software technologies, with an emphasis on R&D level control, full automation, and software integration. The company have build activities across three continents, a promising research and development pipeline with numerous international collaborators, and years of growing experience building a consumer-facing brand, MiniCrops, across London.

Prior to setting up Vertical Future, Jamie spent almost a decade working in health and life sciences, including managerial and senior managerial roles at EY, Deloitte, and IMS Health. He was also seconded to the Department of Health and worked for a number of years in economic regeneration, including with the NHS. Jamie holds a BSc in Economics from the University of Buckingham, a MSc in Energy, Trade, and Finance from Cass Business School, and a Diploma in Investment Banking and Capital Markets from the Swiss Finance Academy. He is also a year away from completing a part-time PhD in Health Economics, specialising in Utility Theory.

Jaz Singh, Innovating Agri-Tech

Jaz Singh

CEO, Innovation Agri-Tech

Innovation Agri-Tech Group (IAG) provides state-of-the-art agricultural technologies and solutions to help open up new food markets globally.

CEO Jaz Singh joined Innovation Agri-Tech in 2015. A dynamic entrepreneur, Jaz has extensive knowledge in the financial and agriculture sectors and has spent the last 10 years enhancing performance and delivering growth for small, medium and large businesses. His areas of expertise include vertical farming, indoor farming, hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics.

John Oswald, Method

John Oswald

CEO, Method Europe

One of the disparate founders of the ‘Business Design’ concept of human-centred innovation, John now leads Method, a design agency which doesn’t just design and build digital products but also tries to think ahead about the future, and how what we eat plays a role in that.

John moved to Essex just before lockdown and has been enjoying having a bit more space to run and grow things in, although gets too distracted by sourdough baking and the history of jazz music to seriously take to growing vegetables.


Kate Hofman, GrowUp Farms

Kate Hofman

CEO, GrowUp Farms

GrowUp Farms is a Controlled Environment Production (CEP) business that specialises in high-care and highly automated production facilities to grow that is safer, more sustainable and tastier than traditional produce. Kate Hofman is responsible for the commercial aspects of GrowUp, having founded the company six years ago with CTO Tom Webster. In her spare time she runs around after her toddler and dog.

Lily Temperton, Hanway Associates

Lily Temperton

Consultant, Hanway Associates

Lily is a Consultant at Hanway Associates and has worked across a broad range of cannabis consultancy projects since 2018, providing regulatory guidance and market analysis for medical, CBD, industrial hemp and recreational clients. She has also written industry reports including the European Medical Cannabis Ecosystem (EMCE, 2020) which was produced in partnership with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Lindsay Hargreaves, Frederick Hiam

Lindsay Hargreaves 

MD, Frederick Hiam

Frederick Hiam is a Suffolk based farming and fresh produce business specialising in root vegetables for retail, wholesale and food service sectors.

Lindsay grew up on farms on the Welsh Borders and North Lincolnshire and has significant experience of managing large farming businesses in East Anglia. In 2010 he was awarded a Nuffield Arden Scholarship to look at new science with the potential to transform agriculture and food; this was when he first gained an interest in vertical farming.

Mike Davies

Executive Chairman, Eider Vertical Farming

Eider Vertical Farming is reimagining farming, creating perfect environments for plants to thrive. It produces fresh, nutritious and affordable food, supplying wholesalers with a consistent, high-quality and locally grown source of supply 365 days a year.

Mike has a background in project and corporate finance and a proven track record investing in and developing energy infrastructure projects. He co-founded EVF in December 2019 as a business committed to growing differently and addressing concerns about food security, safety and sustainability. He sees CEA as a game changer in the search for innovative and more efficient ways to meet the world’s food requirements, and part of how agriculture must be reengineered to tackle climate change and soil health.

Mira Merme Agri-TechE CEA speaker

Mira Merme

Co-founder and CEO, OneFarm

Mira is co-founder and CEO of OneFarm. She is an agricultural entrepreneur having started indoor farming enterprise in the early 1980s. As CEO of London stock exchange listed company, her understanding and experience in the food sector expanded with the creation of a group of catering companies.

Understanding the impact of changing weather patterns on food production she decided that controlled environment agricultural production was an efficient way for creating additional food supply. To that purpose OneFarm has derisked a piece of the sustainable agriculture revolution and will be deploying large-scale fully circular vertical farms to provide safe, affordable, nutritious and environmentally sound food to local populations.

OneFarm is creating a ‘new category’ of affordable fresh healthy nutritious food and plant pharmaceuticals for local communities – on a global scale.

Niall Mottram

Head of Industrial & Energy, Cambridge Consultants

Niall leads Cambridge Consultants’ activities in the Agri-Tech sector. An engineer by training, Niall has led breakthrough innovation projects in multiple industry sectors, involving novel robotic, wireless and dispense technologies. He is particularly interested in the potential for technologies in adjacent sectors to make the leap into Agri-Tech, delivering the next round of yield increases while reducing environmental impact.

Paul Challinor, Jones Food Company

Paul Challinor

Co-founder and CTO, Jones Food Company

Dr. Paul Challinor is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of the Jones Food Company Ltd, which has developed a groundbreaking, high-care, fresh food, vertical crop production facility. The unit includes the latest innovations in intensive hydroponics, GE LED lighting and cropping system automation.

Dr. Challinor is a professionally qualified consultant, with wide-ranging agronomic and technical experience in the UK conventional and organic food crop production Industry. He holds broad experience encompassing intensive vegetable, fruit, flower and pharmaceutical crop production systems, with specialist knowledge of intensive hydroponics and substrate culture.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Stockbridge Technology Centre

Rhydian Beynon-Davies

Head of Novel Growing Systems, Stockbridge Technology Centre

Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) was launched to ensure continued technological developments for the horticultural industry.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies initially joined STC after his PhD at Lancaster University, investigating the influence of environment on rooting systems. At STC he headed up a project looking into the use of LED lighting for protected crops such as tomatoes. He then moved to G’s Growers to manage the development of G’s burgeoning indoor farming operations, before returning to STC as head of the novel growing systems division.

Rob Wylie, WHEB

Rob Wylie

Chairman, Cambridge Agritech

Rob has focused on technology commercialisation and investment in the agri-tech and resource efficiency sectors for around 30 years. He is Chairman of Cambridge Agritech and Five Seasons VC, investment firms focused on agri/foodtech, and Chairman of 3 Agritech companies.

A big thank you to our sponsor:

Innovate UK

Innovate UK

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

We drive productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. We’re an organisation of around 300 staff, drawn mainly from business working across the UK, with a head office in Swindon.

With a strong business focus, we drive growth by working with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation by connecting businesses to the partners, customers and investors and funding business and research collaborations.

Since 2007 Innovate UK have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation and across all sectors, and this has been matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding. We have helped some 8,000 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £16 billion to the UK economy and create nearly 70,000 jobs.

For further information on Innovate UK visit innovateuk.gov.uk.


Association for Vertical Farming

Association for Vertical Farming

The Association for Vertical Farming is a global network of individuals, companies, research institutions and universities focusing on leading and advancing the sustainable growth and development of the vertical farming movement and industry. The AVF was registered 2013 at Munich, Germany county court as a nonprofit association according to German law and acts according to its statutes.

The AVF supports by organizing events, workshops, and conferences the transfer of knowledge and raises awareness in the field of CEA/ indoor /vertical farming globally. The AVF initiates projects and builds consortia for national and international funding opportunities.


Elsoms Seeds

Elsoms’ expert team, specialist facilities and strong relationships, develop breeding programmes that push boundaries, producing market leading varieties.

Creating successful new varieties takes significant time and investment. Our continued investments in our plant breeding team and facilities aim to help breed an even wider portfolio and bring new varieties to the market quicker. These major investments have seen our site develop into a major plant breeding station with state-of-the-art facilities.

Our specialist team produce quality seed and our knowledge of the market allows us to make informed selections and target relevant traits. Our portfolio of own-bred material is growing and it is our goal is to be global leaders in the crops in which we breed, including parsnip and swede. We work closely with growers, partners and institutions, developing our industry knowledge and understanding of what the market needs. We also participate in joint breeding programmes with Bejo for Brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage.

To learn more about Elsoms’ research and development, come and visit our stand and speak to our Research Manager, Dr Adrian Dunford.

University of Essex at REAP 2017

EPIC: Essex Plant Innovation Centre

The Essex Plant Innovation Centre – EPIC – is a new initiative of the University of Essex that brings together world-leading research in plant sciences, the environment, computer science, engineering, robotics and data analytics to address real-world challenges. EPIC’s internal and external collaborations have developed exciting IP across a diverse range of projects, including horticultural robotics, soil microbial diversity and optimizing horticultural LED lighting regimes. Their work has helped business partners meet their R&D goals through consultancy, research services and spin outs.

LettUs Grow

LettUs Grow

By 2050 we’ll have 2 billion more mouths to feed. This will need to be done with less farmland, degraded soil and in an unstable climate. Indoor farming offers a climate-resilient solution to grow fresh produce consistently and sustainably.

LettUs Grow’s patent-pending technology represents a step-change in efficiency for the indoor farming sector. It can grow fresh produce without soil, all-year-round and in any environment – from cities to deserts – with minimal impact on the planet. The technology has shown growth rate increases of 70% over hydroponics and uses up to 95% less water than traditional agriculture. An easy-to-use software platform, Ostara®, provides data automation, optimisation and business planning tools to farmers, helping to maximise yields and minimise labour and resource use.

There are many applications for the technology including urban and traditional farms, food corporations and research centres. For example, farms could be located in food distribution centres to minimise food miles, keep food fresher for longer and reduce protective packaging. This would reduce the carbon footprint of fresh produce while simultaneously slashing both food and packaging waste.

Plater Bio

Plater Bio

The nutrition of hydroponic crops has traditionally depended upon the use of ‘two part’ or even ‘three part’ fertilizers. There is also an additional requirement for acids or alkali products to control the pH. For automated systems, this requires 4-5 Dosatrons and a dedicated computer. Such a system is expensive, takes up considerable space, and requires all users to be thoroughly trained.

In 2018 Plater Bio launched Gold Leaf, the world’s first fertilizer to contain every essential plant nutrient in a chelated and pH buffered form.

Gold Leaf radically simplifies hydroponic cultivation, and as such, it is now possible to take a crop from seed to harvest with just one product to fulfil your crops nutritional requirements!

Gold Leaf has been successfully tested on over 30 crop species in ebb and flood hydroponics.

Plater Bio are keen to talk to potential new partners to increase the use of Gold Leaf through trials in new regions, growing systems, and crops.

Plater Bio are an independent manufacturer of novel agro-chemical inputs, based in Derbyshire


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