Fischer Farms, the firm behind one of the world’s largest vertical farms, has welcomed the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to its new farm in Norwich.
DEFRA Secretary, Steve Barclay, visited Fischer Farms’ new state-of-the-art 25,000m2 vertical farm at Food Enterprise Park, alongside Norfolk County Council Leader, Kay Mason Billig, Tom McCabe, CEO of Norfolk County Council and Chris Starkie, Director of Growth and Investment Norfolk County Council.
The team met with Fischer Farms’ Founder and CEO, Tristan Fischer, to talk about the agricultural innovation currently taking place in the Norfolk area. This was a fantastic opportunity for Mr Fischer to share Fischer Farms’ approach to revolutionising the food production process, and the role that the vertical farming industry can play in safeguarding food security by creating a more resilient and sustainable supply chain.
The group also enjoyed a tour of the 4-acre site, which has the capacity to supply 6.5 tonnes of leaf salad, leafy herbs and other fresh produce to UK supermarkets and other customers every day.
Here they learnt more about the custom-built technology behind Fischer Farms’ operations, which is currently being used to grow and harvest short leafy greens, including salads and herbs, without the use of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides. They also discussed the sustainable nature of Fischer Farms’ production methods, which use significantly less water and land than traditional farming methods.
Mr Fischer also shared his ambitious growth plans, which will see the vertical farming innovators scale up at pace to grow a wider range of crops, including soft fruits and high calorie staples such as rice, soy, peas and wheat.
During the farm tour, Mr Fischer and the Secretary of State discussed how Fischer Farms and the Government could work together to turbocharge food production in the UK. Crucial to the growth of vertically farmed produce is the need to get greater support for planning applications linked to renewable energy and to develop a set of accreditation standards and preferably introduce regulations to certify its produce as organic.
Tristan Fischer, Founder and CEO of Fischer Farms, said: “The Norfolk area is a real hub for agricultural innovation, and we are extremely proud to be a part of this movement. The Norwich Food Enterprise Park is a game-changer for businesses like ours and is something that should be replicated in other areas of the UK. It was a pleasure to welcome Mr Barclay and his colleagues from Norfolk County Council to our new vertical farm, right here in the heart of Norwich, and discuss the opportunity that our industry has to support the agricultural sector as it moves towards a more sustainable and productive future.”
Steve Barclay, Environment Secretary, said: “We have some of the world’s leading agri-tech innovators here in the UK and I’m a firm believer in the potential of technology to help us grow food in a more efficient and sustainable way. Fischer Farms are a brilliant example of this – it was fascinating to visit their vertical farm today and see this cutting-edge technology in action.”
Kay Mason Billig, Leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “When people think of Norfolk, beautiful farmland is often among the first images that comes to mind, but they may not realise the same county is the original home of innovative, technologically driven new ways of growing and processing those crops. With over 8,000 businesses and almost 80,000 employees in the agriculture, food and drink sector across Norfolk and Suffolk, our county is one of the leading agri-food locations in the country, and it’s been a privilege to help show the Secretary of State just how many lessons the rest of the UK could learn from our businesses here in Norfolk.”