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UHI Business Awards: 'Vertical farming' is best engineering project in University of the Highlands and Islands Business Awards

By Alan Shields

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Calum Macdonald picking up the engineering award.
Calum Macdonald picking up the engineering award.

Calum Macdonald, a BEng (Hons) Energy Engineering student, picked up an award for his vertical farming idea at the 2022 UHI Business Awards.

Calum (26), from Lewis, presented his idea for a small modular vertical farming unit that integrates sensors and is standalone but can integrate with other units.

The aim is to produce an affordable system for enthusiasts and commercial growers alike in rural and urban areas with an emphasis on flexibility.

His business would be built around the supply of these units, sensors and seeds as well as consultation.

Calum said: “Rising food costs and supply chain issues meant that issues of self- sufficiency had been on my mind.

"I live on Lewis, where we exist at the end of the supply chain and yet most of our food is shipped over from the mainland.

"I thought it was crazy that most of our food is shipped over on a ferry daily and there have been countless times when a sailing could not go ahead, and shelves were laid bare.

"Equally, from an environmental perspective, the ferry goes through an enormous amount of marine diesel, so the carbon cost associated with this food must be huge.

"I’ve seen lots of YouTube videos on vertical farming and how keen individuals had built setups for themselves and increasing numbers of companies were trying to develop an economical business model for this space."

He added: “I am pleased and excited to win an award! I didn’t expect to win but it will help me in several ways.

"I’m looking forward to capitalising on the forward momentum this brings and moving forward in my own life.”

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