Bioscience for sustainable agriculture and food

Category: Standard Studentships

Improve strawberry growth consistency in vertical farming

Project No. 2320


Primary Supervisor

Dr Mark Else – NIAB at East Malling


Dr Eleftheria Stavridou – NIAB at East Malling

Dr Andrew Simkin – University of Kent


The strawberry market within the UK continues to grow but we are importing an increasing volume of fruit during the winter months.

The COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit uncovered the fragility of traditionally complex and convoluted agricultural supply chains. Climate change is also impacting agriculture.

Vertical farming could bring about a revolution in the production of strawberries all year round in the UK. By growing crops in layers in a controlled environment, it is possible to provide guarantees on the level and quality of production, every day of the year, and whatever the weather and climate (or climate change). While the size of strawberry plants, make them good candidates for vertical farming, they do require a precise and dynamic environment. The long production cycles, complex crop development and environment interactions, continuous harvesting present many challenges when compared to the fast growing leafy greens.

A fundamental understanding of the different components of vertical farming is essential to ensure high quality nutritious fruit. The aim of the project is to understand the physiological mechanisms and metabolic pathways regulating nutritional quality and postharvest performance of strawberries by light during cultivation in interaction with temperature and supply of water and nutrients. Furthermore, the project will also analyse crop yield and growth rates with all resource inputs to compare their carbon footprint to other production systems.

This project will contribute towards a secure and sustainable fruit supply: no pesticides, no nutrient emission, reduced water consumption, reduced land use, lower food mileage, less waste and lower energy use per kg produce compared to greenhouses.