Developing a distributed network of intelligent growing systems for foodservice operators and consumers
Bagged salad is the UK's most wasted category of food in percentage terms. By moving the means of production to the point of consumption, we can disrupt the conventional grow/pick/pack/ship/retail/deliver supply chain. Each stage of this chain has economic and environmental costs.
Evogro Ltd provides clients with a complete integrated system including hardware, consumables, remote monitoring and support services, which enables them to grow-their-own high quality crops with minimal effort and without needing horticultural expertise. This solution eliminates this wastage and the associated negative environmental impacts of the conventional supply chain.
The system is technologically innovative because it combines flexible, multi-zonal hardware with a sophisticated cloud-based software platform that combines image processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence to enable monitoring of every crop and automatic programming of the cabinets. This distributed network approach is transformative because it moves the means of production to the point of consumption.
The existing Evogro system is highly adaptable and can produce a wide range of crops, but the purchase and operating costs of these systems is still too high for all but the most committed consumer and it is only economic to grow specialty produce. This project will contribute significantly to achieving net zero emissions by reducing supply chain impacts and food waste. It will enable production of foods that are accessible to mainstream consumers and in which the nutrient density is maximised.
NIAB and its partners will develop the next generation of value engineered and autonomous growing system that will dramatically reduce the cost. This will greatly expand the addressable market by making it affordable for new consumer segments and make it economic to produce mainstream crops.
The project will also apply the next generation system to the growing of these mainstream crops, optimising the growing models to maximise their nutrient density.
NIAB, at East Malling, will run pilot trials of the next generation growing system in volunteer groups of foodservice operators (including some sectors like education and care homes with potential to deliver additional social benefits) and household consumers.
August 2020 - March 2023