Steps Project - U of E

Climate Lab to Create Crops for “Tomorrow’s Atmosphere Today”

We were thrilled to assist the University of Essex in delivering their unique plant lab, designed to place researchers at the forefront of the fight against climate change by creating crops for “tomorrow’s atmosphere today.”

Our skilled team reconfigured the space to include a new communal corridor and finished areas for the specialised vertical and growth farms, complete with new lab benches, decorations, and M&E installations, including compressed air and reverse osmosis water systems.

The new flagship facility at the University of Essex will enable scientists to adapt plants for a hotter, drier planet as food security faces increasing threats. It features a state-of-the-art, commercially standard vertical farm, an indoor field that can replicate real environments from around the globe, and suites that simulate a warming world by allowing researchers to adjust CO2 concentration and temperature levels. Advanced computer plant scanning technology will monitor plant growth and identify precise changes in photosynthesis. This research will be supported by AI and robotics, which will develop new ideas, technologies, and strategies to predict changes in agriculture and the natural world.

The Smart Technology Experimental Plant Suite (STEPS) will devise strategies to optimize plant performance while working towards net zero emissions. It will also foster connections within the community and develop relationships in agriculture, horticulture, and technology businesses. The facility builds on the work of the influential Essex Plant Innovation Centre (EPIC), which brings together farmers, technologists, and scientists to improve crop resilience to drought, increase yields, and secure the food chain during extreme weather events.

Students will be at the forefront, helping to develop and conduct experiments with the university’s internationally renowned researchers, providing a unique undergraduate experience and training opportunity. Young scientists can now begin their careers in this cutting-edge facility, unique to Essex.

The STEPS lab was partially funded by the The Wolfson Foundation, which pledged £1 million to support its development.

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