A BRACKNELL-based farming innovation company has paired up with a university to show what its technology is capable of.

Innovation Agritech Group (IAG), based at the Aerobarn at Heathley Hall Farm on Bracknell Road, has installed a vertical farming unit at the University of Essex.

This is a part of a £3million collaboration between the company and education facility as the university begins researching sustainable crop methods in the UK.

A spokesman for IAG said: "This is the first commercial standard vertical farm to be installed at a UK university."

IAG installed its 'GrowFrame360™ system', a vertical growth unit which they say is known for its minimal water usage and soil-free growing capabilities.

A spokesman said: "Students will be at the forefront of the work, developing and conducting experiments with the University’s internationally renowned researchers, which provides them with a unique undergraduate experience and training opportunity."

Kate Brunswick, business development director at IAG, said: "This is a significant step forward in combining advanced technology, education and research to address global challenges.

"We are proud to be working with the University of Essex to transform agricultural practices, bridging the gap where traditional farming falls short in meeting the demands of growing populations and changing climates. Our pioneering GrowFrame360™ technology will help both scientists and students to make a profound impact on the resilience and productivity of the agriculture and horticulture sector."

The University of Essex’ STEPS plant lab is dedicated to advancing research in plant adaptation to climate change and ensuring future food security.

The lab has state-of-the-art capabilities, including a commercial-grade indoor farm that simulates various global environments and specialised suites to replicate conditions in a warming planet.

It allows researchers to manipulate CO2 levels and temperature, helping plants to adapt to harsher conditions. Advanced computer scanning technology will track plant growth and analyse changes in photosynthesis. The research will leverage AI and robotics to forge new methodologies, technologies, and strategies for forecasting changes in agriculture and the natural environment.

The installed technology uses an automatic aeroponic irrigation system, where crops are grown without soil, and roots are exposed to the air and intermittently misted with high-pressure water containing nutrient-rich solutions. Unlike in traditional farming, any water not absorbed by the roots is recycled through the closed-loop irrigation system. Meaning 98 per cent of used water is captured and UV treated rather than lost to run off.

“As the world population grows, it’s more pressing than ever to increase plant productivity in crop yields, so we can sustain food production for the future,” said Professor Tracy Lawson, of the University of Essex.