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Bringing The Outside In – Innovating for Controlled Environment Agriculture

March 19 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Bringing the Outside In

In association with the Association for Vertical Farming

Kindly sponsored by Innovate UKInnovate UK

Controlled Environment Agriculture aims to create the optimum growing conditions, allowing year-round cropping of a wide range of high value, fresh produce closer to the point of consumption.

Growing within a hygienic environment offers many benefits:

  • Quality control – there is less requirement for plant protection chemicals, resulting in fewer residues in the products
  • Tighter forecasting – production can be more closely aligned with market needs, thereby reducing waste
  • Improved nutrition and taste – the growing medium can be tightly controlled to deliver high value crops
  • Overcome seasonality – crops can be grown all year, enabling continuous cropping and also scope to grow exotics
  • Improved productivity – vertical farming in industrial or retail units increases the growing area available for food production
  • Plant production on non-agricultural land – closed environments can be used to grow ingredients for pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and industrial applications

This one-day conference creates an opportunity to hear about new growing systems, the challenges, the business case and the experiences of early adopters.

  • Hydroponics to grow crops use nutrients in water. Technologies include:
    – a deep-water system which offers higher nutrient levels and good ventilation control to provide greater consistency in temperature.
    – 3D hydroponic towers which combined with genomics improves quality traits and reduces cost of production
  • Vertical soilless growing systems that uses less water and maximise growing space available
  • Aeroponics – a plant cultivation technique where the plant roots are exposed in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.
  • Aquaponic urban farm – which combines two well-established farming practices – aquaculture (farming fish) and hydroponics (growing plants in a nutrient solution without soil) in a recirculating system.

The challenges of implementing a controlled environment solution.

  • G’s Fresh are assessing the feasibility of converting a large standard greenhouse facility
  • GrowUp Urban Farms share the learnings of six years scaling up its production facilities and describe what is needed to integrate it into the supply chain.
Bringing The Outside In - Phytoponics
Bringing The Outside In - GrowUp
Innovation Agri-Tech Agritechture


10.00     Registration and coffee

10.30     Introduction     

Lindsay Hargreaves, Managing Director, Frederick Hiam Ltd

10.40    Taking Intensive Hydroponic Crop Production to a New Level

Dr Paul Challinor, co-founder and CTO of the Jones Food Company

11.15     Technologies for Controlled Environment Food Production

A series of presentations of the development pipeline of new innovations for controlled environment agriculture and their potential for different markets.

David May, Senior Project Manager, Lincoln Institute for Agricultural Technologies

Shedding light on indoor farming

Adam Dixon, CEO, Phytoponics

Advanced cultivation technology for high wire protected edibles

Jason Hawkins-Row, CEO, Aponic

Meaningful core market diversification opportunities for UK farmers

Dan Hewitt, CEO, GroPod

Title TBC

12.15     Lunch

13.15     Bridging the Innovation Gap

Bringing ideas from proof-of-concept to commercial scale reality is a major challenge, often requiring capital investment, changes in process and practice and a compelling narrative, led by a credible team that gives confidence that the innovation will work. In this session we explore the challenges and enablers by which new CEA solutions can become mainstream.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Head of Novel Growing Systems, Stockbridge Technology Centre

A test-bed for new CEA innovations (TBC)

Chris Roberts, Head of Industrial Robotics, Cambridge Consultants

Make or Buy?  The commercial and technical drivers for automation in vertical farming

Ande Gregson, Founder, Green Lab

Greens in a box: Nurturing early stage agritech ventures

Rob Wylie, Chairman, Cambridge Agritech

Investing in CEA businesses

14.30     Integrating Into the Supply Chain

What, if any, is the anticipated impact on CEA on the fresh produce supply chain? What is the potential for hyper-local, ultra-fresh produce to command a premium price? Or will a reduction in cold-chain logistics requirements bring prices down? How could large agri-business and smaller producers find their places in the supply chain, and what is the likely impact for consumers? What factors would influence the decision for growers to include CEA in their production systems?

Ben Barnes, Innovation and Research Associate, G’s Fresh

Title TBC

Kate Hofman, CEO, GrowUp Farms

Things we’ve learned from GrowingUp

Jaz Singh, CEO, Innovation Agri-Tech

The Green Revolution in CEA; Commercial Scale Aeroponics

15.30     The People Factor

The potential for CEA to generate products with increased nutritional benefits, altered flavours or to supply healthy nutritious food cheaply and quickly in disaster areas is significant. In this session we explore the opportunities for CEA on human physical and mental well-being through nutrition and flavour, as well as how crop production can be integrated in city and building design through creative architecture and planning.

Arnoud Witteveen, CTO, Saturn Bioponics

Title TBC

Tom Cox, former student, Leicester School of Architecture, De Montford University,

Designing buildings for vertical farming

16.00     Closing Comments

16.15     Event close


Adam Dixon, Phytoponics

Adam Dixon

CEO, Phytoponics

Phytoponics has developed a novel approach to deep-water hydroponics that incorporates deep-water culture, ebb and flood system, aeration, ventilation and plant support, all within an innovative growing module design. The flexible system provides an affordable entry into hydroponics and is quick to install.

Co-founder and CEO Adam Dixon was chosen to be a UN Young Champion of the Earth 2017 following his work evaluating establishing a hydroponic farm next to a refugee camp.

Ande Gregson, GreenLab

Ande Gregson

Founder and Director, Green Lab

Green Lab is an open innovation lab and ecosystem for individuals and organisations to design sustainable solutions to complex urban food, water and waste challenges.

Ande Gregson started out in IT and founded and conceived media140, Europe’s first real-time web-conference, and subsequently developed it into a global social media brand. Following the success of media140 he became involved in philanthropic ventures such as Science Rewired before establishing Green Lab in 2015 to work with entrepreneurs and businesses to design food production systems, processes and new foods that can be scaled from a bench-scale trial to world-wide impact.

Arnoud Witteveen, Saturn Bioponics

Arnoud Witteveen

CTO, Saturn Bioponics

Saturn Bioponics is an advanced hydroponic science and technology company delivering sustainable solutions with a rapid payback.

Arnoud Witteveen joined Saturn Bioponics in 2015 to take forward the R&D with particular focus on hydroponic science. His work focuses on controlling the variables delivering consistent crop yields and quality including phytochemicals, shelf-life and overall nutritional values.

Ben Barnes, Gs

Ben Barnes

Innovation & Research Associate, G’s Fresh

G’s Growers Ltd is an independent producer organisation with 20 grower members in the UK and Spain. G’s Growers’ crop range includes wholehead and babyleaf salad, celery, radish, onions, salad onions, beetroot, mushrooms, Chinese leaf and leeks. Collectively G’s Growers farm over 7,500 hectares of specialist crop which they harvest, process or pack for sale onto their end customers.

Ben Barnes has recently joined G’s and heads up the research into controlled environment cropping.

Chris Roberts, Cambridge Consultants

Chris Roberts

Head of Industrial Robotics, Cambridge Consultants

Cambridge Consultants is a global product development and technology consultancy firm providing outsourced research and development services.

Chris Roberts is a physicist with a broad technology background encompassing robotics, machine vision, security, cryptography and authentication, digital electronic engineering, algorithm design and system engineering, with an emphasis on low power solutions.


Dan Hewitt

CEO, GroPod

GroPod is developing next generation growing systems that use aeroponics techniques for root vegetables and research crops. Aeroponics is a plant-cultivation technique where the plant roots are exposed in the air while nutrient solution is delivered to them in the form of a fine mist.

Dan Hewitt is the owner, founder and CEO of GroPod, and has two decades of agricultural experience which has included roles such as head of agriculture for Kettle Foods UK, running Grower Groups and sitting on the Board of the AHDB Potatoes Sector.

David May

Senior Project Manager, LIAT

David joined the University of Lincoln in January 2018 as a Senior Project Manager for LIAT (Lincoln Institute of Agri-Food Technology).

David May is an agronomist by training, having studied Horticulture at the University of Reading and worked for ADAS as a crop advisor. David runs his own consultancy business alongside his work for LIAT, providing expert advice on food, flowers and plant quality.  David specialises in the impact of supply chains on product quality and in particular, temperature management and damages through handling. He has extensive experience in QA and supply chain processes. He helps business optimise quality whilst using their resources efficiently.

Jason Hawkins-Row, Aponic

Jason Hawkins-Row

CEO, Aponic

Aponic Ltd have designed and manufacture a vertical aeroponic farming system for growing fruit, vegetables, flowers, salad crops and herbs on a commercial scale 365 days a year. It uses 90% less water, offers much faster growth and much higher yields than traditional growing methods. Being vertical, it maximises ground usage by turning acreage into volume, and it uses very little energy to run.

Jason Hawkins-Row is an engineer and programmer with a passion for empowering people to grow highly nutritious, truly sustainable food anywhere in the world in a simple and predictable manner.

Jaz Singh, Innovating Agri-Tech

Jaz Singh

CEO, Innovation Agri-Tech

Innovation Agri-Tech Group (IAG) provides state-of-the-art agricultural technologies and solutions to help open up new food markets globally.

CEO Jaz Singh joined Innovation Agri-Tech in 2015. A dynamic entrepreneur, Jaz has extensive knowledge in the financial and agriculture sectors and has spent the last 10 years enhancing performance and delivering growth for small, medium and large businesses. His areas of expertise include vertical farming, indoor farming, hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics.

Kate Hofman, GrowUp Farms

Kate Hofman

CEO, GrowUp Farms

GrowUp Farms is a Controlled Environment Production (CEP) business that specialises in high-care and highly automated production facilities to grow that is safer, more sustainable and tastier than traditional produce.

Kate Hofman is responsible for the commercial aspects of GrowUp, having founded the company six years ago with CTO Tom Webster. In her spare time she runs around after her toddler and dog.

Lindsay Hargreaves, Frederick Hiam

Lindsay Hargreaves 

MD, Frederick Hiam

Frederick Hiam is a Suffolk based farming and fresh produce business specialising in root vegetables for retail, wholesale and food service sectors.

Lindsay grew up on farms on the Welsh Borders and North Lincolnshire and has significant experience of managing large farming businesses in East Anglia. In 2010 he was awarded a Nuffield Arden Scholarship to look at new science with the potential to transform agriculture and food; this was when he first gained an interest in vertical farming.

Paul Challinor, Jones Food Company

Paul Challinor

Co-founder and CTO, Jones Food Company

Dr. Paul Challinor is the Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of the Jones Food Company Ltd, which has developed a groundbreaking, high-care, fresh food, vertical crop production facility. The unit includes the latest innovations in intensive hydroponics, GE LED lighting and cropping system automation.

Dr. Challinor is a professionally qualified consultant, with wide-ranging agronomic and technical experience in the UK conventional and organic food crop production Industry. He holds broad experience encompassing intensive vegetable, fruit, flower and pharmaceutical crop production systems, with specialist knowledge of intensive hydroponics and substrate culture.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies, Stockbridge Technology Centre

Rhydian Beynon-Davies

Head of Novel Growing Systems, Stockbridge Technology Centre

Stockbridge Technology Centre (STC) was launched to ensure continued technological developments for the horticultural industry.

Rhydian Beynon-Davies initially joined STC after his PhD at Lancaster University, investigating the influence of environment on rooting systems. At STC he headed up a project looking into the use of LED lighting for protected crops such as tomatoes. He then moved to G’s Growers to manage the development of G’s burgeoning indoor farming operations, before returning to STC as head of the novel growing systems division.

Rob Wylie, WHEB

Rob Wylie

Chairman, Cambridge Agritech

Rob has focused on technology commercialisation and investment in the agri-tech and resource efficiency sectors for around 30 years. He is Chairman of Cambridge Agritech and Five Seasons VC, investment firms focused on agri/foodtech, and Chairman of 3 Agritech companies.

A big thank you to our sponsor:

Innovate UK

Innovate UK

Innovate UK is part of UK Research and Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government.

We drive productivity and economic growth by supporting businesses to develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base. We’re an organisation of around 300 staff, drawn mainly from business working across the UK, with a head office in Swindon.

With a strong business focus, we drive growth by working with companies to de-risk, enable and support innovation by connecting businesses to the partners, customers and investors and funding business and research collaborations.

Since 2007 Innovate UK have committed over £1.8 billion to innovation and across all sectors, and this has been matched by a similar amount in partner and business funding. We have helped some 8,000 organisations with projects estimated to add more than £16 billion to the UK economy and create nearly 70,000 jobs.

For further information on Innovate UK visit innovateuk.gov.uk.


Association for Vertical Farming

Association for Vertical Farming

The Association for Vertical Farming is a global network of individuals, companies, research institutions and universities focusing on leading and advancing the sustainable growth and development of the vertical farming movement and industry. The AVF was registered 2013 at Munich, Germany county court as a nonprofit association according to German law and acts according to its statutes.

The AVF supports by organizing events, workshops, and conferences the transfer of knowledge and raises awareness in the field of CEA/ indoor /vertical farming globally. The AVF initiates projects and builds consortia for national and international funding opportunities.


Elsoms Seeds

Elsoms’ expert team, specialist facilities and strong relationships, develop breeding programmes that push boundaries, producing market leading varieties.

Creating successful new varieties takes significant time and investment. Our continued investments in our plant breeding team and facilities aim to help breed an even wider portfolio and bring new varieties to the market quicker. These major investments have seen our site develop into a major plant breeding station with state-of-the-art facilities.

Our specialist team produce quality seed and our knowledge of the market allows us to make informed selections and target relevant traits. Our portfolio of own-bred material is growing and it is our goal is to be global leaders in the crops in which we breed, including parsnip and swede. We work closely with growers, partners and institutions, developing our industry knowledge and understanding of what the market needs. We also participate in joint breeding programmes with Bejo for Brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli and spring cabbage.

To learn more about Elsoms’ research and development, come and visit our stand and speak to our Research Manager, Dr Adrian Dunford.

University of Essex at REAP 2017

EPIC: Essex Plant Innovation Centre

The Essex Plant Innovation Centre – EPIC – is a new initiative of the University of Essex that brings together world-leading research in plant sciences, the environment, computer science, engineering, robotics and data analytics to address real-world challenges. EPIC’s internal and external collaborations have developed exciting IP across a diverse range of projects, including horticultural robotics, soil microbial diversity and optimizing horticultural LED lighting regimes. Their work has helped business partners meet their R&D goals through consultancy, research services and spin outs.

LettUs Grow

LettUs Grow

By 2050 we’ll have 2 billion more mouths to feed. This will need to be done with less farmland, degraded soil and in an unstable climate. Indoor farming offers a climate-resilient solution to grow fresh produce consistently and sustainably.

LettUs Grow’s patent-pending technology represents a step-change in efficiency for the indoor farming sector. It can grow fresh produce without soil, all-year-round and in any environment – from cities to deserts – with minimal impact on the planet. The technology has shown growth rate increases of 70% over hydroponics and uses up to 95% less water than traditional agriculture. An easy-to-use software platform, Ostara®, provides data automation, optimisation and business planning tools to farmers, helping to maximise yields and minimise labour and resource use.

There are many applications for the technology including urban and traditional farms, food corporations and research centres. For example, farms could be located in food distribution centres to minimise food miles, keep food fresher for longer and reduce protective packaging. This would reduce the carbon footprint of fresh produce while simultaneously slashing both food and packaging waste.

Plater Bio

Plater Bio

The nutrition of hydroponic crops has traditionally depended upon the use of ‘two part’ or even ‘three part’ fertilizers. There is also an additional requirement for acids or alkali products to control the pH. For automated systems, this requires 4-5 Dosatrons and a dedicated computer. Such a system is expensive, takes up considerable space, and requires all users to be thoroughly trained.

In 2018 Plater Bio launched Gold Leaf, the world’s first fertilizer to contain every essential plant nutrient in a chelated and pH buffered form.

Gold Leaf radically simplifies hydroponic cultivation, and as such, it is now possible to take a crop from seed to harvest with just one product to fulfil your crops nutritional requirements!

Gold Leaf has been successfully tested on over 30 crop species in ebb and flood hydroponics.

Plater Bio are keen to talk to potential new partners to increase the use of Gold Leaf through trials in new regions, growing systems, and crops.

Plater Bio are an independent manufacturer of novel agro-chemical inputs, based in Derbyshire

Exhibition spaces are available!

Contact us to find out more.

A limited number of exhibition spaces are available at the conference for organisations wishing to showcase new innovations, technologies or equipment in the area of Controlled Environment Agriculture to the high level audience of farmers and growers, agronomists, investors, and the technical providers to this exciting industry.

We are particularly keen to feature innovations with a practical and visual element so that delegates can see how they currently operate (or are expected to work) in the real world. Growing units, medium and fertiliser samples, imaging technologies, robots and the like all welcome!

This is an exciting opportunity to feature your organisation as part of a one-day conference on the future of different growing systems, the challenges of implementing a system and the logistics involved with integrating a controlled environment agriculture into the food value chain.

For more details about how to exhibit please contact us.

Exhibition stand cost:

Free for members (+ ticket cost for each delegate)*

£50 for non-members (+ ticket cost for each delegate)*


*prices exclude VAT

Booking and cost


(Please note the fee is non-refundable for cancellation within 5 working days of the event.)

To find out more about becoming a member of Agri-Tech East, please click here.

4 Basis CPD points will be available for attendees of this event.


Rothamsted Research
Rothamsted Research
Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ United Kingdom
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