A SCOTTISH start-up plans to build dozens of indoor vertical farms, which it claims can grow up to five times the amount of greens as traditional farm, across the UK.

Edinburgh-based Shockingly Fresh is currently developing five sites countrywide to introduce low cost naturally-lit vertical farms using hydroponic towers to grow multiple crop cycles of leafy veg such as salads and herbs.

The firm said it believes the increased yields from its farms will help British growers boost crop production and reduce the UK’s reliance on costly off-season imports from Europe.

It also said the enclosed environment will mean less pesticides and cleaner crops.

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The company has secured rights to one site in Scotland and four in England - covering a total of 50 hectares - with a site in Worcestershire awaiting full planning consent.

The firm has launched an investor seed round to kick start its expansion to more than 40 sites countrywide over the next five years.

Shockingly Fresh has teamed up with technology providers Saturn Bioponics and specialist salad growers ValeFresco to roll out the plans.

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Garth Bryans, of Shockingly Fresh, said: “We selected Saturn’s technology because their set-up requires far less up-front capital than a fully-enclosed vertical farm, yet delivers most of the benefits which are already driving the high demand for hydroponically-produced crops.

“This makes it much easier to get projects off the ground.

“A fully enclosed farm can achieve a higher annual yield, but when you add in additional lighting and heating costs as well as the high capex, their typical costs per kg are higher than a naturally lit set up can achieve.”

He added: “We have identified a significant market - particularly around the early and late season ‘shoulder months’ - which is currently filled by imported crops from Europe.

“We believe our sites will enable British growers to compete on a level field.”

Over the last three years ValeFresco and Birmingham-based Saturn have successfully grown vertical crops of pak choi, lettuce and herbs for a range of customers – with positive results.

“With pak choi we saw a three to four-fold increase in yields per crop cycle, with a third more cycles per year, giving an overall five-fold increase in annual yield.” said Saturn Bioponics founder Alex Fisher.

“The crops are cleaner, the season is longer, there is less disease and pest risk and they are easy to harvest.

“Consumers are well-accustomed to strawberries grown under cover and this is a natural next step,” Mr Fisher added.