The APGC’s four key facilities will bring together a range of technologies in a single research facility to address sustainable agriculture and new agricultural business opportunities. APGC will be unique to the UK and probably unmatched globally.
High-Density Vertical Growing Towers
New developments in vertical and indoor farming allow of plants and crops to be produced at very high densities in totally controlled environments. This allows year-round production of identical plant material of a consistent and high quality from batch to batch.
These towers are also an important research tool as their consistent output year-round accelerates gene discovery and crop breeding. Being able to grow plants continuously under optimised conditions allows multiple generations to be created in a single year, increasing the rate at which new varieties can be produced. Combining vertical growth towers with high-throughput (functional) phenotyping also allows rapid screening of breeding and mutant plant populations.
Research Applications of vertical growing towers include:
- Plant population screening
- High throughput production of consistent experimental plant material
- Speed breeding
High-Throughput, Non-Destructive Phenotyping Facility
A high-throughput non-destructive imaging platform allows rapid phenotyping of a crop and the selection process to be automated when crop varieties are in development. Visual, hyperspectral, thermal and chlorophyll-fluorescence imaging technology shows at a very early stage how plants respond to different stresses.
When developing and breeding of new crop varieties, these technologies allow varieties resilient to different environmental stresses to be identified quickly and provide functional information that helps breeders identify the genes and gene variants responsible for particular traits. This accelerates the breeding cycle even further through the identification of molecular markers.
Next Generation Controlled Environments
APGC will have next-generation controlled-environment facilities comprising growth cabinets, growth rooms, a speed breeding facility, polytunnels and glasshouses equipped with specialist lighting and environmental controls. Most controlled growth facilities are not able to replicate field conditions in a controlled manner. This limits the capacity to identify and understand plant responses to the different environmental stresses that are encountered in a typical growing environment.
By developing specialised, bespoke growth facilities, the APGC will provide a unique opportunity to undertake this type of research within the UK.
Post-Harvest Research Facility
An advanced post-harvest storage research facility – unique in its scale – will allow crops to be developed that have improved storage and supply chain characteristics as well as being resilient in the field.
Post-harvest storage is the main point where value in the supply chain is lost so requires significant research and development focus. At regional and global levels there is a need to develop and optimise sustainable and environmentally benign post-harvest storage and transportation systems to ensure quality, nutritional value and processability and to reduce associated waste and loss of revenue.