Bristol agritech company to teach vertical farming to prisoners as part new trial


A Bristol company is hoping to help rehabilitate UK prisoners by teaching them about indoor farming methods as part of a new trial.

Lettus Grow, which was founded by a trio of University of Bristol graduates in 2015, has developed a ‘vertical’ system to grow produce suspended in air using a mist to deliver nutrients.

The company, which secured £2.3m in 2020 to develop its game-changing tech, will be introducing its farming methods to HM Prison Hewell in Worcestershire as part of the government-back scheme.

Inmates will be introduced to indoor farming practices and will be trained in horticulture, with the aim of helping them secure full-time employment on release from prison.

Co-founder Charlie Guy, who set up the business with Ben Crowther and Jack Farmer, said he was “excited” to be involved in a project.

“In the first half of this year alone, an estimated £22m worth of fruit and vegetables has been wasted directly because of workforce shortages in agriculture,” he said.

“Unlike typical agricultural work, indoor farming employment is much more stable as it’s year-round and not ruled by the seasons. It’s a unique development activity for prisoners, providing an introduction to an industry where there are good opportunities for career development, whilst contributing to their own food production in the prison as well.”

The main purpose of the farm is training rather than food production. The salad, vegetables and herbs produced in the container farm, which has already arrived at the prison, will be incorporated into prisoner meals.

The prisoners will learn plant husbandry skills, how to use a farm management software platform, indoor farm standard operating procedures, as well as hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP), and food safety.

They will also be taught how to grow plants with state-of-the-art ultrasonic aeroponic technology – a method of growing produce without soil, in a nutrient-rich mist. According to Lettus Grow, its methods use 95% less water than normal farming.

Prisons minister Stuart Andrew said: “This innovative scheme reflects our drive to equip prisoners with the cutting-edge practical skills needed to gain employment and play a positive role in society.

“Allied to education, family ties and addiction treatment, stable work holds the key to a life free from crime and safer communities for us all.”

HM Prison Hewell is the first governmental institution in the UK to have brought controlled environmental agriculture into the prison system.

Ralph Lubowski, Governor of HMP added: “I am delighted to partner with LettUs Grow in this fantastic initiative, which will give our prisoners the opportunity, confidence and training to turn their lives around.

“Vertical farming is an innovative, emerging industry and this partnership highlights our commitment to ensuring that prisoners are skilled up to find work on release.”

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