Scientists from the University of York in the UK are collaborating on a new environmentally-friendly research project to use vertical farming facilities to grow amaranth – a new source of alternative plant protein.
Funded by Innovate UK, the two-year project will develop methods to use vertical farming facilities to grow the plant, known for its many health benefits and numerous antioxidants and which is undervalued in the current UK food market.
The project will be led by Vertical Future along with the University of York, Crop Health and Protection Limited (CHAP), an Innovate UK-funded agri-tech centre, and Syan Farms and Eat Curious, a plant-based food development company.
Researchers say amaranth production could help decrease the UK’s reliance on imports of plant proteins such as soy and pea, boosting not just the UK economy and environmental impact but also the health of UK consumers. Amaranth has been proven to be a lower-cost alternative to the more commonly used pea protein and is commonly eaten in Southern Africa, South East Asia and South America. The project aims to address growing demand by bringing together experts working in vertical farming technology and crop biology to develop a high-yielding, high-protein, quality crop.
Conducting the growing process exclusively within indoor vertical farming facilities will enable the plant to be grown in the UK year-round and decrease carbon emissions emitted during the transportation process as the vertical farm is located on the food manufacturing site.