London vertical farming company to grow crops in orbit

A London-based agri-tech company has been awarded £1.5m by the UK Space Agency to fund a project to develop an in-orbit space farm.

The agency, sponsored by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, has allocated grant funding to 11 projects across the UK, including the space farm.

Developed by Vertical Future, a vertical farming and technology manufacturer, the project will adapt its existing controlled-environment agriculture systems into a prototype for low-Earth orbit.

The systems are destined for the first commercial space station, currently being constructed by Axiom Space, which is due to be placed in orbit in 2026.

Dr Jen Bromley, chief scientific officer and autonomous agriculture project lead at Vertical Future, said the agricultural project will define a new sector. 

“The further we go into space, the more we will need to produce while we’re there, be it food, biomaterials or medicines,” she explained.

“Plants are able to be the biofactories to cover all of these needs. The ability to reliably grow off-Earth is not yet realised, as the technologies to achieve this haven’t yet been implemented away from Earth at the scale required to sustain life.

“The autonomous agriculture project puts Vertical Future and the UK at the front and centre, leading and defining a new category for the commercial space sector: Agri-space.”

Technology development for deployment in space has proven benefits to life on Earth, and more than 30,000 space-tech items have entered the consumer market since the 1950s.

This includes cordless tools, smoke detectors and memory foam, to name but a few.

Vertical Future promises that the technologies developed and enhanced in this project will improve controlled-environment agriculture productivity and efficiency back on Earth.

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