Scottish vertical farming innovator IGS goes global

Scottish agritech business Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) is taking vertical farming to new heights, as the world grasps the environmental impact of traditional food cultivation.

Founded by farmer Henry Aykroyd and engineer Dave Scott, IGS launched its first product in 2018, quickly gaining ground as an award-winning international authority in the field. Now, the company is changing the direction of farming forever.

Smarter, kinder agriculture 

Instead of planting seasonal crops in fields, IGS has invented a way to grow a year-round supply in vertical towers - producing a harvest that's organic, reliable and sustainable.

It works by growing plants in trays which are fed by efficient LED lighting grids and water management systems that can be operated remotely. Although it involves complex systems, it's been designed to be easy to use and maintain.

Smart technology manages specific air temperature and humidity controls for steady and predictable crop growth, resulting in 30% to 50% faster crop cycles than traditional methods. It also allows for a variety of crops to be grown in close-proximity, and the sealed units mean that no pesticides or chlorine washing is required. 

Even the air is cleaned and recycled to minimise water consumption. Incredibly, this water management cycle is so efficient that the only water to leave the towers flows via the plants themselves. Resulting crops are bountiful - including leafy greens, herbs such as basil, coriander, oregano, and mint, as well as salad leaves and microgreens. Rapid cropping, simple life cycles and high percentage of edible biomass, make these plants perfect for vertical farming.

The system is modular and scalable, too. The ‘smart agriculture’ approach offers reliable, regular produce in areas where the weather can be extreme, such as desert environments, or countries that have long, cold winters.  

Increasing productivity while reducing energy consumption, labour costs and water use means the cost of indoor growing has decreased significantly, opening up the market worldwide. 

Sarah Auld checking the basil and kale in The Growth Tower at IGS Ltd, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee

How our investment helped

Early on, the company’s founders succeeded in gaining angel equity before securing significant investment from Scottish Enterprise (SE) alongside private sector and international agri-tech investors. SE also helped them with innovation and R&D support.

More recently, we have supported their expansion into North America, Singapore and the Middle East. To help with this expansion, we provided research services overseas, and in the UK, to identify market opportunities, ecosystem partners and certification requirements.

And, given the innovative design features of the company’s technology and infrastructure, our Intellectual Assets specialists provided guidance on trademark protection. 

"It's my vision that within the next two to three years, vertical farms will be successfully and profitably operated by our customers on six continents. We predict many of these will be fully integrated with traditional farming methods."

David Farquhar, CEO of Intelligent Growth Solutions

IGS CEO David Farquhar at The Growth Tower at IGS Ltd, The James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee

Cross-sector innovation

IGS has two divisions: Growth Solutions focuses on the vertical farming market, while the Grid Solutions section applies low-cost LED lighting grid solutions to buildings, car parks, shops and other areas out-with agriculture.

These divisions are complemented by a fully Scottish supply chain which mass produces both the towers and the lighting grids. The company continuously tests and improves its work at the James Hutton Institute, Scotland’s largest scientific research centre and one of the biggest in the United Kingdom.

The institute houses four towers specifically set up for crop trials and experiments on product hardware and software testing, allowing for continuous improvement.

Growing company profits

IGS is set for impressive sales growth.

Business intelligence firm IDTechEX forecasts a global market value of $1.5 billion for vertically farmed produce by 2030. IGS is already seeing the fruits of such growth, enjoying continued interest from customers across the globe.

French company Jungle, for example, is just one of many IGS customers. In a multi-million-pound deal, the company bought vertical growth towers to supply crops to its retailers on an industrial scale with the objective of creating a minimum of 17 towers by the end of 2021.

The Growth Tower at IGS Ltd, the James Hutton Institute, Invergowrie, Dundee

A multitude of towers will ensure a steady supply of herbs and salads, while creating new varieties of veg through a programme of crop trials. There’s also further opportunity for growth – literally – in developing a variety of botanicals for flavour and fragrance businesses.

Another international company, Therme Group, has also chosen IGS as its resident agritech expert. In a partnership forged at COP26, the health spa group will use IGS technology to grow fresh produce on urban farms within its well-being centres across Europe. The move will ensure greener, home-grown ingredients in the group’s restaurants, bars and skincare products.

Thanks to ventures such as these, IGS has a pipeline of over £20 million for 2021 and an ever-expanding headcount that has more than doubled in the past year.

On top of this, on 3 November 2021, IGS announced the conclusion of its Series B funding round which raised £42.2 million. The investment round was supported by a conglomerate of new investors including COFRA AG (Zug, Switzerland), Cleveland Avenue LLC (Chicago) and DC Thomson (Dundee, Scotland). These well-established, globally recognised investors prove that there are high levels of investor confidence in the future of indoor and vertical farming.

Changing farming forever 

Scottish inventions are world changing and impactful. It’s therefore no surprise that when a creative solution is required to tackle climate change and create efficient food systems, an innovative Scottish company is leading the way.

Find out more about IGS.

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