Our food is processed it lacks nutrition, it travels many miles, it deteriorates, its energy inefficient. Why don’t we grow our own food? We can. We are designing a system that can be used at any size of deployment, eventually in any environment - we even want to go into space. We have established what people want to eat where through Salford University and we are working with CPI Catapult to develop new materials to make this happen. We want to create a system that can provide lateral food types to any diet/food chain and at any scale. Better still what if we never needed to refill the water? What if we could harness the weather to make those changes for us, imagine if we could control the plant growth, the timings and intensity of what we harvested? This is not Frankenstein food, this is the ability to provide where provision has not allowed before, where we can grow to emergency response, provide nutrition in refugee camps, urban balconies, hospital grounds, remote communities. We can re-use our product many times and change its configuration, size and application. The ability to adapt has never been more urgent we believe we have the solution to a growing climate problem, by creating our own.
The UK faces Covid-19 and Brexit with the probability of food shortages (Food Manufacture Aug 2019). “We need to travel and deliver goods throughout the world, it also exposes us to diseases like COVID-19 that originate elsewhere” Rudy Salo, Forbes 31/03/20. Based on the farm-gate value of unprocessed food in 2017, the UK supplied (50%) of the food consumed in the UK. The leading foreign supplier of food consumed in the UK were countries from the EU (30%). Africa, Asia, North and South America each provided a 4% share of UK food. GOV.UK 09/10/2018. In 2018, Wire magazine stated that vertical farming was worth $3 billion globally rising to $22 billion by 2026. However, there remain concerns over the financial viability of some vertical farming, increased labour costs, environment and the energy cost of lighting. Additionally, only successful business models make shorter growth crops financially viable, restricting availability and choice. Customer budget can adversely affect the nutritional state of food, with grower’s minimal financial investment, in crop feed and fertilisers. The ability to grow traditional crops using a hybrid vertical farming system has not been considered, crops could be grown with the technology from vertical farming but without having to build extensive permanent structures. A hybrid system would increase yield and provide extended growing seasons in the UK for additional yield and volume of crops, with capital set up costs between low cost films and permanent glasshouse structures. Ampode structures provide portability, easily relocation allowing land to recover, or, utilising smaller and under utilised urban spaces (allotments). A 2004 study in the JACN compared nutrients in crops grown from 1950 to 1999 and found declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. Farming is no longer just about efficiency but also about the quality of food. Ampode have additional technology to improve quality using the stimulus of plant enzymes to increase node growth, beyond this phase of development. We have already been working with CPI Catapult identifying the use of plastics in farming. The traditional use of low value plastics create around 6 million tonnes a year of waste plastic from farming. Ampode will provide a more viable product, where the materials developed will provide new flexibility, durability and recycling well beyond the current product range life spans. Cost of this new product would be recouped in the extended lifespan of the product and the additional crop benefits it would produce.