Controlled Environment Agriculture Vertical Farming

Alternative Plant Protein: Vertical Future Spearheads Research Project

Alternative Plant Protein: Vertical Future Spearheads Research Project

Vertical Future, an emerging leader in vertical farming technology based in the UK, is steering the Innovate UK-funded research project Vertical Indoor Protein from Leaf (VIP Leaf). The project, a part of the farming innovation program, seeks to establish a novel alternative plant protein source.

The two-year initiative aims to devise methods for growing amaranth in vertical farming facilities. The plant, renowned for its myriad health benefits and rich antioxidant content, is undervalued in the UK food market. The harvested amaranth crops will serve as a new source of plant protein that could diminish the UK’s dependence on imported plant proteins, like soy and pea, fostering not just the national economy and environmental impact but also improving the health of the average UK consumer. Historically consumed in Southern Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America, amaranth has proven to be a more affordable substitute for the widely used pea protein. Furthermore, indoor farming technology could cultivate it in the UK throughout the year.

As the vegan, vegetarian, and flexitarian food markets grow, consumer demand for plant-based protein surges. The VIP Leaf project is designed to cater to this increasing demand by uniting vertical farming technology and crop biology experts to create a high-yielding, high-protein, quality crop. This crop could be used to craft recipes for a market-ready meat alternative for UK consumers. The employment of vertical farming facilities for the entire growth process could lead to reductions in water and energy consumption, the area of land required for cultivation, and carbon emissions linked to transportation. In addition, vertically farmed amaranth would have lower environmental costs than other widely available plant proteins.

Vertical Future is leading the project in collaboration with the University of York, Crop Health and Protection Limited (CHAP), an Innovate UK-funded Agri-tech center, and Syan Farms and Eat Curiously, a plant-based food development company. The VIP Leaf project is leveraging Vertical Future’s experience in designing, manufacturing, and building a range of proprietary hardware and software technologies for vertical farms worldwide and tapping into protein and crop-specific knowledge at the University of York and CHAP, as well as food manufacturing and scale-up production facilities at Syan Farms and Eat Curiously.

The project’s outcome is expected to aid the UK in achieving Net Zero Carbon by 2050 through a revolutionary approach to food science and farming, underpinned by crop technology and vertical farming.

Dr. Jennifer Bromley, Chief Scientific Officer at Vertical Future, welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the UK’s economy, environment, and health through the VIP Leaf project, funded by Innovate UK. This initiative positions Vertical Future as the first agricultural technology company to demonstrate its systems for producing plant-derived protein.

This project will also harness the extensive horticultural and plant science expertise of the University of York and CHAP and leverage the automated growing process and development kitchens at Syan Farms and Eat Curious to assess Amaranth’s potential to replace other plant-derived proteins currently in the market.

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash 

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