Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Vertical farming gathers upward momentum

Agriculture Minister, Damien O’Connor says the Government is backing the next steps of a hi-tech vertical farming venture that uses up to 95% less water, is climate resilient, and pesticide-free.

Mr O’Connor visited project partner Greengrower Ltd’s Controlled Environment Farming facility today at the Waikato Innovation Park in Hamilton.

“Last year our food and fibre exports hit a record $53.1 billion and we are investing to future proof this growth by being the best farmers for the world,” the Minister said.

“As farmers and growers around the world grapple with less predictable growing conditions due to climate change, it’s key that we are looking to innovative solutions to shore up our production and food security. Through leading with new technology we can help other countries to do the same.

“Whilst conventional horticulture is reliant on the weather playing ball and providing high volumes of water, this kind of innovative vertical farming is done indoors and can use up to 95% less water to grow produce in half the time.”

The pilot commenced in July 2022 with help from the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and has successfully taken leafy greens to supermarkets with positive consumer feedback, Mr O’Connor said.

The next phase of investment seeks to expand the system to other types of crop, he said.

“Because Greengrower’s systems are controlled environments, there is also no soil degradation, chemical runoff, or required pesticides. Produce is ready to go from plant to plate without needing to be washed.”

Greengrower subsidiary Sustineri Limited is contributing $5.29 million to the four-year programme, with Massey University providing research and development support. The Government has provided a $3.53 million boost to support the four-year programme.

“As the climate continues to change, it is imperative that we work to keep our primary sector agile and adaptable to future proof our food producing systems. This is just one of the many projects that the Government has driven through Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures. $530 million have now been co-invested with business to help shift the dial for our largest export sector and diversify our opportunities.

“New Zealand’s future economic security depends on our sustainability credentials and we’re investing in cutting edge technology to stay positioned as world leaders,” Mr O’Connor said.

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