For Scottish agriculture, the only way is up.

That, at least, is the view of MPs after seeing the nation’s first ever “vertical farm”.

Scientists at Scotland’s James Hutton Institute have been developing a pioneering new facility for growing salad crops on stacked layers.

Politicians and researchers are increasingly excited by the technology, which is incredibly water-efficient.

After initially focusing on basil, Scotland’s vertical farmers are now trying to grow strawberries, one of the nation’s most important fruit crops.

Opened last year in Perthshire as a joint venture with a commercial firm, the vertical farm has already attracted significant attention, not least amid concern over water-intensive agriculture.

Yesterday,On Monday it was visited by MPs from the Scottish Affairs Committee, which is investigating the future of farming north of the Border.

Its chairman, the SNP’s Pete Wishart, said: “Our visit to the James Hutton Institute revealed how Scottish farming as we know it will be transformed by technological and social innovations to make the sector more productive and sustainable.

“Seeing the impressive technology at the institute – like Scotland’s first vertical farm – is like looking into the future of agriculture, but we heard that getting these high-tech solutions on to farms remains a challenge.

“My committee will continue our investigation into how innovative research can result in change on the ground in farms, and how even small social changes can be used to make Scottish farms fit for the future.”

The commercial partner at the farm, Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS), has previously said it aims to create 150 jobs by 2021 as it develops software, data, engineering, robotics and automation.

Other vertical farmers are looking at developing towers of micro-greens in Scottish cities. Such technologies could see salad and other produce grown locally, cutting out carbon-heavy air-miles and providing cheap greens, even out of traditional season.

IGS spokeswoman Kate Forster said: “We continue to generate a significant amount of commercial interest from almost every continent across the world.

“Vertical farming is of increasing interest across the agricultural and growing sectors, but also from a development and energy (renewables and alternative sources) perspective.

“We are undertaking trials to test our systems on other produce such as strawberries in our towers. This is at a very early stage, but has had good results so far.”

The James Hutton Institute has secured funding through the Tay Cities Deal for the vertical farming research at its Advanced Plant Growth Centre or APGC.

Scientists hope the technology could help in the battle to survive global warming, and ensure resilient food supplies.

James Hutton Institute chief executive, Colin Campbell, said: Professor Campbell added: “The APGC will also see the development of new crop varieties and improve the quality and taste of existing crop species.

“In doing this we have the potential to better secure our food supply chains against climate change and lower the impact on the environment.”

Allan Wilson from supermarket Waitrose said: “The James Hutton Institute has an outstanding track record in plant breeding which puts them ahead of other UK players.

“This, for me, makes the Advanced Plant Growth Centre an exciting opportunity which will put Scotland in a dominant position within this emerging market, that others will struggle to match.”

He added: “This innovation will provide faster, more dedicated, vertical growing/breeding and commercialisation benefits to many sectors such as vegetables and soft fruits.”

The vertical farm is not selling its produce, but its technology and expertise as the world looks for ways of growing that use less land and less water.