SOG boss John Lewis MBE wants to create a global Centre of Excellence for Vertical Farming as part of his vision to see The Heath Business and Technical Park, in Runcorn, transformed into a 21st Century version of Port Sunlight.

Vertical Farming is a key element of his proposals for Heath Park, a scheme which has been adopted as a Liverpool City Region ‘Beacon Project’ and that features in the UK Government’s Global Investment Atlas. SOG are currently engaging with ethical investors from around the world to fund the project and Mr Lewis says he has been greatly encouraged by the initial response to the Vertical Farming aspirations of the scheme.

Last year Mr Lewis funded a world-first pilot study conducted by renowned Vertical Farming expert Dr Paul Myers’ team at Farm Urban and the University of Liverpool that compared the carbon footprint of traditional agriculture methods with a Vertical Farm powered by Hydrogen.

The results demonstrated that it is possible to grow Net-Zero produce using renewable energy. Dr Myers will present the findings of the study at the 31st International Horticultural Congress being held in Angers, France, in August 2022.

Vertical Farming

Meanwhile SOG is hosting a Round Table meeting at The Heath on April 13th, 2022, of business leaders, scientists and representatives from local & central Government to discuss the breakthrough and to explore possibilities for developing a Centre of Excellence within Heath Park that incorporates a skills and training facility to educate and train the Vertical Farming workforce of the future. Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram supports the idea and will join the Round Table discussion.

Dr Myers, co-founder of Farm Urban who will Chair the Round Table, says: “Agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change, contributing nearly a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions. To reach Net-Zero carbon emissions land use overall must absorb more greenhouse gasses than it produces. A novel form of controlled environment agriculture, Vertical Farming, offers benefits of space savings, water efficiency and hyper-local production and aligns with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. However, despite it being proposed by many leading experts as a solution, one of its major drawbacks is high energy consumption in contradiction to Net-Zero carbon targets, but we now have an answer to this conundrum.

“In the study sponsored by SOG Group, we compared lettuce production between traditional soil-based agriculture in Southern Spain and a Vertical Farm located within The Heath Business and Technical Park.

“Exploration of various renewable energy types reveal Hydrogen fuel cells as an unexplored renewable energy source that could enable carbon sequestering Vertical Farms. This was particularly pertinent to this trial due to the availability of Hydrogen as a fuel source for Heath Park which has an agreement in place with Hydrogen energy suppliers, HyNet North-West.                                                     

“Our study demonstrates numerous advantages of Vertical Farming using renewable energy including the associated health benefits of giving local people access to the freshest healthiest food and driving healthier behavioural change from the ground up. The unique model of Vertical Farming proposed for Heath Park is a clean, green and inclusive Carbon negative solution and is in stark contrast to the carbon intensive and environmentally destructive traditional agriculture methods that governments around the world continue to subsidise.” 

Dr Myers adds: “We consider that the findings of the feasibility study that I will be presenting at the IHC in August will be a game changer in the way we grow our food in the future and will have a massively positive impact in the battle against Climate Change.”

Mr Lewis says: “The vision for Heath Park has been to transform our site into a 21st Century version of Port Sunlight by creating a Net Zero carbon environment where people can live, work and play. Heath Park revolves around sustainability and our aspiration includes a world-leading Vertical Farming powered totally by renewable energy. 

The pilot study conducted in the Summer has major implications on the way in which we will grow food in the future and underpins why our proposed Vertical Farm should be a global Centre of Excellence that will revolutionise the industry.

“Our proposed farm could provide equivalent CO2 absorption to 2.1 million mature trees over a 10-year operating period, imagine the impact on efforts to combat the effects of Climate Change if that were replicated across the world!  Our Round Table event seeks to validate our ideas and to explore what is required to deliver this exciting and ground-breaking concept.”

About The Heath

The Heath Business and Technical Park is a phenomenal regeneration success story. Formed in 2000, its owner and operator, SOG Ltd, has transformed a once single occupancy corporate facility into a thriving independent business park. The Heath now provides office and laboratory accommodation for around 120 individual organisations, ranging from business services and IT specialists to those at the cutting edge of science, research and advanced manufacturing.  The Heath supports around 2,000 jobs. For further information visit www.theheath.com

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