Vertical Future and Heck Food in vertical farming tie-up to ‘supercharge’ flavour and nutrition

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Vertical Future’s produce is specifically cultivated to ‘pack a flavour punch like no other’. The company has developed technology and plant science know-how that allows it to cultivate produce that delivers ‘top quality’ taste and nutrient density.

“We can offer different light and nutrient diets to plants to produce different taste, nutrition, feel, and aesthetic profiles,”​ Jamie Burrows, CEO and Founder of Vertical Future, told FoodNavigator.

“Growing fresh produce in a fully controlled environment allows us to ‘play god’ with flavours, aesthetics, and other characteristics – this is because we control all of the different variables associated with plant growth. This has massive benefits for healthy brands like Heck as we can use our systems to respond directly to their needs and specifications. What’s most interesting is that we can do this in a sustainable way, year-round, on demand, and with absolutely no chemicals. This is a step evolution in food production.”

Bringing food production closer to the point it is processed and minimising time between harvest and processing also offers advantages, from reducing nutrient degradation to sustainability gains. “Producing closer to the point of production is definitely important, including from an environmental standpoint, but the lead value proposition in respect of nutrition is the optimisation through our systems,”​ Burrows elaborated.

Vertical farms – indoor farms that grow produce in stacked layers or rows – offer the potential to increase yield per unit of land in controlled environments that provide optimal growing conditions for a given crop. High levels of automation and controlled environments mean they can be operated 24-7.

Sustainable innovation with ‘cutting-edge agriculture’

Vertical Future 1

Pic: Vertical Future

Vertical Future’s sustainably grown, ‘beyond-organic’, crops will allow Heck to continue creating ‘unique and interesting flavours’ in its vegan range, the companies said.

Originally founded as a sausage company, Yorkshire-based Heck recently launched a plant-based range. The vegetable-based line is designed to offer a ‘delicious and nutritious’ alternative to meat, Heck said.

Heck co-founder Debbie Keeble said that the benefits offered by vertical farming align with the company’s own values.

“There are huge benefits to vertical farming. No pesticides or herbicides, less water and food waste, no transport, more efficient production, taste control and better shelf life. Micro-nutrients will also provide fantastic health benefits as well as giving us a unique selling point,”​ she explained.

“We are farmers originally and it’s really exciting to now be investing in the future of sustainable, cutting-edge agriculture and not relying on imports.”

The facility will be based at Heck’s headquarters in North Yorkshire and the ‘main focus’ will be basil production for existing products. But Burrows stressed that the vertical farm will also support Heck’s flavour innovation by developing a range of ‘other experimental crops’ to ‘determine the best taste and nutritional characteristics for use in Heck’s recipes’.

What new flavour innovation could this unlock?

“To be seen,”​ Burrows responded. “This is the beauty of projects like these – there are so many upsides. The downside, however, is that there are so many variables, meaning that the R&D process can be long and complex.”

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