An industry team led by agritech specialist Liberty Produce and supported by the James Hutton Institute has won Innovate UK funding to develop innovative hybrid farming and greenhouse technologies to work towards Singapore’s food security and net-zero goals.
The award will see Liberty Produce jointly lead the Hybrid Advanced Research Vertical Farming Environment Systems and Technology (HARVEST) consortium with Singapore-based LivFresh, a high-precision controlled environment company. The James Hutton Institute and Republic Polytechnic Singapore (RP) are research partners.
The Singaporean government has initiated a number of strategic policy initiatives with the goal of increasing self-production of its fresh produce by 30% by 2030 via investment in high-tech farms, among other measures. Currently, the Republic of Singapore imports over 90% of its food supplies from foreign countries, putting it at disproportionate risk to fluctuations in global food supplies and prices, as evidenced by the disruption to food chains across national borders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The HARVEST team will apply and refine hybrid farming techniques developed in the UK, with funding from UKRI, to support Singapore’s national strategy. This is Liberty Produce’s first stage milestone towards net-zero food production.
Liberty Produce will transfer skills and know-how developed at its Totally Controlled Environment Agriculture R&D system based at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee. Its Liberator farming system will be installed at the LivFresh site in Singapore where it will be integrated with existing advanced greenhouse technology. The team will run trials and investigate different aspects of how combined-system growing can provide optimum efficiency and higher nutrient density for crops needed by the Singaporean market. At the end of the two-year project, the team will roll out a scalable, turn-key product that enables increased Singaporean domestic crop production.
“We are delighted to receive international recognition for our hybrid farming technology and to be given the opportunity to contribute to Singapore’s net-zero and food security goals”, Dr Dylan Banks, Co-Founder, Liberty Produce, said. “We look forward to collaborating in Singapore to the benefit of their national production capabilities.”
British High Commissioner to Singapore, Her Excellency Kara Owen, elaborated: “This is a great example of Singapore and UK collaborating to advance shared goals of our countries in an area of increasing importance – sustainable and secure food production. As Singapore works to increase capabilities in in-country production of fresh food, we are delighted to be partners through exchanging skills and know-how: the result should be a scalable solution in high-tech vertical farming to address our future food security needs.”
Karthik Rajan, Founder, LivFresh, said: “For Singapore to achieve her 30 by 30 goal, continued innovation in boosting productivity and nutrition density are key within the realms of commercial pragmatism. We are very pleased to be a part of this unique cross-border academia-enterprise collaboration and look forward to enabling access to cutting edge innovation in urban farming.”
“This project is a truly international collaborative effort and embodies the ethos of the new £27m Advanced Plant Growth Centre initiative. It aims to deliver increased commercial, economic and environmental benefits to the agricultural and food and drink sectors by innovative use of precision-controlled environment technologies”
Professor Derek Stewart
Professor Derek Stewart, Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre at the James Hutton Institute, added: “Building on our strategic partnership with Liberty Produce, and now LivFresh, we look forward to seeing our science in action in South East Asia and helping Singapore reach its food self-sufficiency targets in a sustainable manner.”
The two-year HARVEST project began on 1 April 2021. Liberty Produce’s systems are modular, configurable and upgradable to provide growers and researchers with an accessible entry point into advanced farming technologies and to enable them to easily expand. Life cycle analysis and product adaptability to the environment is essential to optimising the Liberator system for specific crops and specific climates. The data-driven system deploys in-farm sensors to optimise production and assure product output. The project provides export opportunities by placing UK IP and novel technologies at the forefront of systems architecture in totally controlled environment agriculture, while promoting food security. The project will create high-value jobs both in the UK and Singapore, and will drive the next generation of agriculture by building the technology and delivering the research required.
The HARVEST team includes Liberty Produce: UK AgriTech company driving the sector towards greater sustainability, efficiency and security by building leading-edge, totally controlled environment agriculture technology that enables the growth of local produce year-round; LivFresh, a Singapore-based farming company with a mission to revolutionise access to fresh, locally grown produce through high precision-controlled environment farming methods; Republic Polytechnic, Singapore, a centre for agricultural/horticultural expertise with facilities for installing, testing and developing solutions, and the James Hutton Institute.
Liberty Produce is a farming technology company founded in 2018 to drive innovations that will enable us to meet our global crop requirements over the next century, without harming the planet. As experts in the development of technology (from advanced lighting systems to machine learning for integrated control systems) for the breadth of indoor agriculture (from glasshouses to Totally Controlled Environment Agriculture systems), Liberty delivers research and products that consistently push boundaries. Liberty Produce develops and builds systems that reduce operational costs with enhanced resource efficiency, improve yields and increase sustainability towards net-zero and food security goals. www.liberty-produce.com
Innovate UK drives productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas. We connect businesses to the partners, customers and investors that can help them turn ideas into commercially successful products and services and business growth. We fund business and research collaborations to accelerate innovation and drive business investment into R&D. Our support is available to businesses across all economic sectors, value chains and UK regions. Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation. www.innovateuk.ukri.org