Cambridge HOK launches modular vertical farming facility concept

15-Feb-2022

The company has launched a controlled environment farming facility concept to support indoor growing, climate control, engineering, automation and efficient energy provision

UK-based vertical farm expert Cambridge HOK has launched a new 'concept to completion' package to provide investors and retailers with their own fully automated indoor growing facilities.

With ten years of experience in building and operating vertical farms both in the UK and Europe, the company feels the market is now ready for large-scale commercial facilities to help retailers take control of supplies in uncertain times.

The concept can be developed modularly, and so whilst it is 5,500 sqm at first, you could easily roll that out and gain economies of scale over time

The team has developed detailed financial costing models for fully-automated facilities of 5,000 sqm upwards in which crops such as lettuce, rocket and other salad types can be grown to the highest standards, in ideal and consistent conditions, unaffected by the weather.

The turnkey package

The package offered includes advice and support from a team of highly-experienced experts in indoor growing, climate control, engineering, automation and efficient energy provision at CambridgeHOK, leading clients from initial planning and costing to building and operating facilities.

"When we talk about a total solution, we mean providing a fully working business, proven to work and backed by accurate and reliable return on investment projections," said Patrick Harte, joint Managing Director of Cambridge HOK.

"We think of everything from germination to propagation, movement and climate control grow systems through to packing, back office, plant rooms and electrical infrastructure," Harte added. "By offering all of our in-house expertise and knowledge, we can provide a turnkey solution, all under one roof. We can even build the building if someone wanted us to."

Automation and scalability

Harte explains that automation and scalability are the two key factors behind the company's new concept model, and that is why Cambridge HOK has partnered with award-winning automated warehousing specialist SEC Group on the project.

"For our concept vertical farm, you are looking at an 8-figure investment, so it is for people who are really serious about investing in the future of the industry, and people who can see the future size and scale of our offering," Harte said. "The concept can be developed modularly, and so whilst it is 5,500 sqm at first, you could easily roll that out and gain economies of scale over time. It's not just an investment for today, it's one that you can scale up and invest into in multiple rounds."

The fully-automated facilities can grow crops to the highest standards, in ideal and consistent conditions

He explained that automation is vital at this size firstly due to economics and ensuring an efficient production system, and secondly to manage the complexity and the number of movements per day effectively. Highly automated, highly organised and highly computerised systems take vertical farming to the next scale of production.

"With advances in energy today, there are also numerous ways of providing clean, green electricity which we are able to assist with," Harte added.

Harry Watts, Managing Director of SEC Group's storage division, said: "Our expertise in automation means we can combine proven technology with our data driven design expertise."

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"This approach allows us to develop digitally twinned simulations prior to build, orchestrating engineering and operational elements in a virtual environment before building on site," Watts added. "This combination of digital design and automation, alongside Cambridge HOK's extensive Vertical Farming expertise, provides a truly scalable concept with clearly traceable modular design that allows extensions to be easily connected over time."

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