Serial entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne has joined vertical farming pioneer Innovation Agri-Tech Group as a non-executive director.

London-based IAG provides solutions to complement the traditional challenges of farming, specialising in indoor vertical aeroponics. This is claimed to use up to 95% less water than conventional farming and 70% less water than in hydroponics. 

Its patented flagship system, the GrowFrame, is a modular system which uses aeroponic irrigation and closed loop water recycling to provide water and highly precise nutrients with no pesticides, as well as being proven to produce a healthier root system and superior crop growth – up to 15 harvesting cycles per year. 

The roots of plants grown this way are free to absorb the maximum amount of oxygen, without the restrictions of soil compaction. The company says this allows the plants to generate the oils and sugars that give them their flavour much more efficiently, creating strong, vigorous crops that taste delicious and grow much faster with extended shelf life compared to conventional methods.

Bannatyne, best known for founding the Bannatyne Group of health clubs, was impressed by the company’s vision for revolutionising the way that we grow food on a global scale.

“On visiting the IAG farm, I was quite amazed at how simple it is to grow food indoors and – importantly – vertically,” he said. 

“There is no denying the massive issues affecting people today, such as the terrible situation in Ukraine. However, this isn’t by any means the sole factor when considering the global food shortage, which has been apparent for decades. 

“As populations continue to grow, we need a new way of producing food as traditional farming methods alone aren’t meeting demand, and in my opinion vertical farming is the perfect solution. It complements the work farmers around the world are already doing, and by using aeroponic technology it combats the issues of soil degradation, food miles, seasonality and water usage.

New chair at cancer-fighting PLC Oncimmune

“While many might see vertical farming as some strange sci-fi project, it’s certainly anything but. Once set up, it’s easy to use and can quickly grow a range of produce which is high in nutrition, as well as tasting fantastic. 

“This is exciting – and it’s only the beginning. I’m looking forward to the journey with IAG – and how vertical farming will play an increasingly vital role in the food chain supply moving into the future.”

Having joined the Royal Navy at just 15, Bannatyne started his business career at the age of 20 on Jersey, buying an ice cream van for just £450 before eventually selling the business in order to fund Quality Care Homes – a business he sold for £26 million in 1996 – and a children’s nursery chain Just Learning, which was sold for £22m. 

New York HR tech innovator appoints UK-based COO

A business angel on BBC programme Dragons’ Den, in 2004 he was awarded an OBE for his services to charity. 

Jaz Singh, CEO, Innovation Agri-Tech Group, said: “We’re delighted to welcome Duncan to the board of IAG. Having such a fantastic ambassador for vertical farming can only be beneficial for us as we look to take our business from the R&D phase to market. 

“It’s a really exciting moment and we genuinely believe that vertical farming is the technology of the future.”

How WeWork crash changed VCs’ mindset