Over the last decade or so most of the UK's fruit and veg has come from Europe, notably the Netherlands, Southern Spain, Poland and Italy. As a small island nation, we import about £11 billion a year in fresh fruit and vegetables, mainly from the countries I mentioned.
Take the Netherlands as the main example, they are the second largest exporter of food measured by value, second only to the USA. Yet the Netherlands is 270 times smaller than the US, how have they been able to achieve this? Rotterdam is a mere 200 miles from London, according to Google Maps, it’s safe to say they do not have some amazing tropical climate. What they do have, is consistent innovation and a desire to produce food in the most efficient manner possible. If they can do it, then we in the UK can too.
I think over the coming decade, as technology further enables us, we will see a shift away from large centralised growing regions, like the Netherlands or the greenhouses of Almeria in Southern Spain. Instead, switching to a decentralised model. A model that sees food grown where it is being consumed, this is where smart, precision-based vertical farming comes into play. I believe this will be made possible by a few things:
The cost of technology is dropping, LED's are dropping fast and have been for a few years. Big Data and AI are allowing us to crunch petabytes of data that modern farms are producing, further allowing us to refine the inputs, ultimately ending up with the perfect indoor growing environment, generating maximum yield.
Secondly, there is a major shift in how we view the world and the food we eat. Boomers and Gen-Z, our grandparents and parents who were not really aware of the true harm they were doing themselves by not adhering to a healthy, highly nutritious diet. This mindset has changed over the last decade, millennials are more in tune with the world, more educated in health and demand more nutrition from the food they consume.
We millennials question everything, aided by technology, we want everything at our fingertips. We want "hyperlocal" not just local. We want complete transparency in where our food comes from, who grows it and when it was harvested.
These changes, both the advancement of technology and a change in how we view our food will result in food being grown in and around the major cities of the world. Increasing transparency, reducing food miles to almost nothing and providing fresh, on-demand produce. The future is hyperlocal, the future is Yeeld.