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HydroGarden assists The University of Nottingham in new food and energy research

HydroGarden assists The University of Nottingham in new food and energy research

The University of Nottingham is embarking on an exciting new hydroponics research project with our help as part of its investigations into new concepts for energy efficient food secure future living.

The project will be supervised by Professor Mark Gillott and undertaken by Matthew Woodward, an undergraduate student on the B.Eng Hons Architecture Environment Engineering Programme at The University of Nottingham’s Department of Architecture and Built Environment.

It will investigate the differences in the energy used by a hydroponic system with only LED lighting, and one that utilises a mixture of natural and artificial lighting sources. The work will consider the impact of these different growing environments on the growth and production of the plants.

Two of HydroGarden’s vertical hydroponic systems have been installed in the University’s ‘Creative Energy Homes Project’. The facility comprises seven specially-built eco houses to form ‘Green Close’ which are used to investigate the integration of energy efficient technologies into houses, and which attract over 3,000 visitors a year.

The hydroponics systems have been installed as a result of HydroGarden’s ‘Project Urban Grow’ which was launched at the Vertical Farming and Urban Agriculture (VFUA) Conference last September at the University of Nottingham. Now, launched under the brand name ‘VydroFarm’, it’s hoped that the systems could set a new industry standard for vertical farming.

VydroFarm is a versatile and fully-controllable environmental system and features vertical racks on tracks that can be moved together to save space and maximise production density, as well as enable easier harvesting, whether automated or by hand. The VydroFarm system can be monitored and controlled remotely via smart phone, tablet or PC. Optimum lighting conditions for crop growth are achieved via Valoya LED lights.

One of the VydroFarm systems has been installed in the basement while the other has been sited by the main entrance to the Mark Group EcoHouse. Both will be used to grow a variety of salad items such as lettuce. The crop’s weight and nutrient content will be measured to investigate if purely LED hydroponic systems can improve output while also bringing efficiencies in terms of the amount of space they take up and the amount of energy they use.

Professor Gillott commented: “We are delighted to be working with HydroGarden on this exciting and timely project. This is a great opportunity to investigate the energy and building integration issues associated with moving food production into our cities. We see this as part of a potential solution for ensuring global food security in a world with an expanding population and increased pressure on land use and resources.”

Student Matthew Woodward added: “It’s great that my course gives me the opportunity to work on real world building technology problems through the projects linked to the Creative Energy Homes. I’ll be looking holistically at how building design can be adapted to incorporate vertical farming systems working in synergy with the building services systems.”

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