Agri-tech innovation centre Crop Health and Protection (CHAP) and its greenhouse innovation partner RIPE Building Services, have officially opened their new high-tech greenhouse facility at the University of Warwick’s Wellesbourne Campus.
The structure, named the Natural Light Growing (NLG) Centre, has been designed and built by RIPE Building Services, partnered by CHAP with £500,000 funding from Innovate UK. It was officially opened by Professor Janet Bainbridge OBE.
The NLG Centre is the first of its kind and will act as a demonstration facility and experimental hub for horticulture to investigate the effect of full spectrum growing conditions on crops in a protected environment. The facility will host projects looking in detail at yield and speed of growth as well as traits like taste, health and vigour.
Rather than being constructed from glass, the NLG Centre uses a new type of ETFE film, which transmits the full spectrum of UV light. The film is inserted into the light-weight frame design and tensioned using patented heat technology. The construction also uses a unique ground anchoring system that allows the structure to be built quickly and efficiently, without the need for traditional concrete foundations, in all weather conditions.
Over the next few months, CHAP will be launching early trials in the facility and holding a number of open-days to invite businesses to explore ideas for projects. As well as the unique light transmission qualities of the facility, the structure is also tall enough to accommodate vertical farming and has been designed with novel automation projects in mind.
Fraser Black, CEO of CHAP, said: “The NLG Centre at Wellesbourne Campus is another vital open-access facility for UK agriculture. We look forward to welcoming British growers to explore some of their key productivity challenges.”
Phillip Lee, Managing Director of RIPE Building Services, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be partnering with CHAP and officially launching our new prototype greenhouse at Warwick’s Wellesbourne Campus. The location is ideal for the facility, being part of Warwick’s innovation community as well as a major growing area in horticulture.”
Simon Swain, Vice-President for Regional and National Engagement at the University of Warwick, said: “The opening of the NLG Centre marks another exciting step in developing our Wellesbourne Campus as a centre for innovation, attracting novel thinkers, companies and partnerships onto the campus to work alongside our own world-renowned crop scientists and automation engineers.”
Notes for Editors
Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), funded by Innovate UK, is one of four UK Agri-Tech Centres. CHAP’s vision is for the UK to be a global leader in the development of applied agri-technologies, to help secure our future by nourishing a growing population sustainably while delivering economic, environmental and health benefits to society.
CHAP acts as a unique, independent nexus between UK government, researchers and industry, building innovation networks to identify and accelerate the development of cutting-edge solutions to drive incremental, transformative and disruptive changes in sustainable crop productivity and to establish controlled environment agriculture (CEA) as a core competency.
RIPE (The Rapid Installation Process for ETFE) is a spin-out of Evolve, the company where the Natural Light Growing concept originated. Evolve is pretty much the only ‘architectural’ design practice focused on horticulture in the world. We bring together all the appropriate technology in order to achieve optimal growing solutions and long-term profitable operations for our clients, always with a leaning towards sustainability. Our mantra is: It’s only sustainable if everybody can use it.
About the University of Warwick
The University of Warwick is one of the world’s leading research institutions, ranked in the UK’s top 10 and world top 70 universities. Since its foundation in 1965 Warwick has established a reputation of scientific excellence, through the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine (which includes WMG and the Warwick Medical School). A global university, Warwick was named in the top 25 of the Times Higher Education’s Most International University rankings.
About Professor Janet Bainbridge OBE
A biochemical engineer by training, Janet has worked as a specialist within the investment group of UKTI for 11 years and is currently working with the Northern Powerhouse to scope agri-food opportunities.
She has had a long a career as a senior academic, has a Chair in Biotechnology and Food Science and has also been CEO of a private sector company. In 2000 she was awarded an OBE for services to Science and Technology.
7 November 2019