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Developing a novel circular model for low-emission, healthy food production

The Biorenewables Development Centre, Kilnsey Park Estate and the University of York’s Centre for Novel Agricultural Products have won funding from Innovate UK to develop a novel circular model for food production to produce resource-efficient, healthy and low-emission food such as leafy salads and vegetables.

The UK currently imports 46% of its food needs; this collaboration will help address the most serious threat to food shortages such as relying on long supply chains that are vulnerable to disruption from external factors such as droughts and transport blockades. 

The two-year collaboration will drive the growth of world-leading Total Controlled Environment Agriculture (TCEA) capacity (or more commonly known as indoor vertical farming)  in the UK by creating and testing a new circular and scalable model for local low-emission food production, by optimising TCEA production technologies to reduce running costs and improve productivity, and by developing a nutrient-rich biofertiliser that grows healthy, high nutrition food.

Jamie Roberts, Managing Partner, Kilnsey Park Estate said; “We are delighted to be part of this collaboration and host the containerised food production facility at our Kilnsey Park Estate in the Yorkshire Dales.  We pride ourselves on being one of the greenest, most environmentally friendly visitor attractions in the UK. The facility will be powered by renewable energy including solar power and for the first time biogas from anaerobic digestion to achieve a projected 30% reduction in emissions.”  

“At the Biorenewables Development Centre we will apply our expertise in anaerobic digestion and plant growth trials. Our Bioscience Innovation Technologists will increase the productivity of TCEA through a number of innovations including developing a nutrient-rich biofertiliser using anaerobic digestion to produce a low-cost, lower-emission alternative to commercial fertilisers. Whereas our Business Development Managers will map feedstocks for biofertiliser production, assist in the LCA and TEA to ensure the successful delivery of project objectives.” added Dr Deborah Rathbone, Bioscience Innovation Team Lead, Biorenewables Development Centre. 

The partners will also optimise TCEA efficiency by testing different production methods - including growing system technologies and substrates such as wool -- in order to maximise the sustainability and nutritional value of the food produced.

Katherine Denby, Professor of Sustainable Crop Production, Centre for Novel Agricultural Products, University of York went on to explain; “Being part of this collaboration will enable us to expand our research on optimising the environmental footprint of vertical farming and apply our expertise in improving the production and nutritional quality of horticultural crops in a real-world setting at Kilnsey Park Estate.” 

The expected impacts of this collaboration are to develop a genuinely circular food production system that emphasises sustainable local production to achieve shorter, less centralised and decarbonised supply chains whilst contributing to Net Zero targets.


Anna Alessi, Project Manager, Biorenewables Development Centre, 

Jamie Roberts, Managing Partner, Kilnsey Park Estate 

Notes to editors 

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is creating a better future by inspiring, involving and investing in businesses developing life-changing innovations. We provide targeted sectors with expertise, facilities and funding to test, demonstrate and evolve their ideas, driving UK productivity and economic growth. Join our network and communities of innovators to realise the potential of your ideas and accelerate business growth. Innovate UK: inspiring business innovation. This project was awarded £415,000 from the IUK Novel low-emission food production systems: Feasibility studies. 

Kilnsey Park Estate in the Yorkshire Dales National Park attracts 50,000 visitors each year, providing them with enriching nature-based experiences and well-being through recreational activities on both land and water. The Estate delivers sustainable, nature-based farming and land management across 1500 acres, including the protection of flower-rich grasslands and the preservation of the UK's most endangered orchid. The Estate supports the region’s thriving bioeconomy through local renewable energy generation and adopting sustainable food production methods including vertical farming.  

The Biorenewables Development Centre (a subsidiary of the University of York) is an open-access Research, Development and Demonstration organisation working at the interface between academia and industry to develop, scale-up and help commercialise bio-based products and processes. It provides clients with innovative ideas to convert plants, microbes and biowastes into profitable, high-value, greener products. The Centre offers a broad variety of technical services using state-of-the-art integrated R&D facilities in the fields of chemistry and biology. Businesses are supported by delivering desk-based assessments (eg market research, facilitating connections across the bioeconomy sector, and helping companies to find value across their supply chain). The BDC also has expertise in bioeconomy cluster building activities offering support to build partnerships or collaborations in the bioeconomy.

The University of York's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products is a centre of excellence using cutting-edge research to harness the power of nature for development of new products and processes. From developing sustainable food crops and biofuels to advancing plants for land decontamination, we maximise the value of plants without compromising food security. They also help deliver the Fix Our Food programme and run its own urban vertical farm experiments at Grow it York.

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