According to the MacRobert Award’s panel of expert judges, Edinburgh-based Intelligent Growth Solutions has been nominated “for helping to de-risk an agriculture sector that’s facing an ageing farming population and an uncertain, volatile future.” They added: “Intelligent Growth Solutions’ vertical farming technology blends engineering, crop science and agronomy expertise to manage all environmental inputs for optimal growth, flavour and longevity.” Each of the firm’s modular farm systems houses towers of crops within an enclosed structure in which all aspects of the growing environment — from light and temperature to humidity and irrigation — are fine-tuned to optimise growth while eliminating water waste.
Intelligent Growth Solutions do not stop at just providing the tower-like farming structures, but also apply their analyses to help individual customers tailor their crops to their needs.
So, a farmer working for the food processing industry could optimise their produce for flavour, for example, whereas one working for the health food industry might request a setup which balances flavour with elevated nutrients.
Creating these growth recipes can be a complex process, however — tailoring a system for lettuces, for example, might take a matter of weeks, while more complex crops like flowers or fruits might require months to determine the optimum approach for the customer’s needs.
The farms can also be used to optimise the germination of slow-growing crops and tree saplings before they are transplanted outdoors.
At present, Intelligent Growth Solutions has a dozen farmer customers on four different continents who have already placed orders for more than 200 towers.
Intelligent Growth Solutions’ Chief Technology Officer Dave Scott told Express.co.uk it was “fantastic” to be shortlisted for the MacRobert Award.
The core team who have brought the technology to fruition, he added, “have committed huge personal time, effort and sacrifice to this cause.
“So having the MacRobert Award consider us and the Royal Academy of Engineers to endorse that — for them, is a huge achievement.”
“It’s just a superb external validation of that effort.”
The MacRobert Award, first presented in 1969, is administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering with support from the Worship Company of Engineers.
The other two finalists this year are Oxford Instruments, who have developed a detector that integrates with scanning electron microscopes and allows for faster and superior materials analysis, and Quanta Dialysis Technologies, who have developed a compact and portable dialysis machine allowing more flexible care for patients with renal failure.
This year’s winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at the Londoner Hotel in London’s Leicester Square on Sunday.
The winning organisation will be presented with a gold medal and the winning team members a cash prize of £50,000.
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MacRobert Award judging panel chair Professor Sir Richard Friend said: “Engineering has a key role to play in combating the greatest challenges of our time — from climate change to driving a sustainable healthcare system through the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future.
“The breadth of the 2022 MacRobert Award finalists shows exactly that, from innovative healthcare technology that has reduced the strain on the NHS, to vertical farming with zero water waste and a step-change in electron microscopy that is revolutionising research and innovation across a variety of sectors.
“The global impact these vibrant and creative innovations have already had on their respective sectors and society at large is cementing UK engineering’s leading role on the world stage.
“It goes to show quite how far-reaching UK engineering now is, something that will only continue given the world-beating talent located right here in the UK.”