Growing crops in the Plant Factory
Although food security has traditionally been considered a rural development issue, this is now changing in the context of growing cities and urban poverty. Research demonstrates clearly that the urban poor shoulder the greatest economic burden in meeting their food needs, accounting for an estimated 54% of their income. This makes their food supply extremely vulnerable to any changes in supply chains.
There is increasing recognition that part of the effort to feed the world’s population has to be achieved within cities in order to increase local productivity and availability, build resilience to climate shocks and conflict, and reduce the vulnerability of the urban poor to food and nutrition insecurity. University of Plymouth is collaborating with the Royal Scientific Society of Jordan to develop solutions to the challenges of urban food insecurity.

Taking the Plant Factory to the MENA region

The main aim of this project is to understand the challenges and opportunities of integrating the concept of a controlled environment Plant Factory into the food supply system at selected Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries.
Using virtual, interdisciplinary knowledge exchange workshops, focus discussion meetings targeting key stakeholders in the food supply system, and the creation of household-scale Plant Factory units for teaching and research, project partners will develop and scale-up a sustainable food system model. This would provide nutritious, affordable, safe daily food, and ultimately contribute in MENA’s efforts towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
A shelf of plants in the Plant factory

Objectives of the project

  • Raise awareness and capacity building of key stakeholders on the Plant Factory concept and controlled environment agriculture (CEA).
  • Explore the challenges and opportunities of promoting Plant Factories and CEA in the MENA region.
  • Establish a small household Plant Factory model for demonstration and research purposes.
  • Create a pool of Plant Factory experts and suppliers representing the targeted countries.

Impacts of our research

*Updated following project completion
One of the key outputs of the project was to create a network of CEA stakeholders across the MENA region and worldwide – a pool of experts, and associated social platforms, that provides an interactive platform to share ideas, success stories and lessons learned. It is hoped that this will result in the concept of Plant Factories being integrated into national food supply policies and will improve the food security status of participating MENA countries. Introducing urban CEA has begun to develop resilience for people living in cities, particularly the urban poor, and will contribute to the overall body of knowledge concerning Plant Factories and CEA.
Dr Hail Rihan at the Plant Factory in Jordan
Dr Hail Rihan at the Plant Factory in Jordan
The household Plant Factory model allows the team to demonstrate their research
The household Plant Factory model allows the team to demonstrate their research
Developing solutions to food security challenges through indoor vertical farming - inside growing units in Plant Factory
Developing solutions to food security challenges through indoor vertical farming

Controlled Environment Agriculture Research Group

Our Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) team includes researchers and technical staff from both the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the Faculty of Health, working together on transdisciplinary projects advancing the use of dynamic lighting technology to grow food and medical crops.
Much of our research is carried out on-site in our bespoke Plant Factory unit. Projects focus on the development of sensors, LED lighting, control systems and precision horticulture techniques to optimise the energy efficiency of indoor growing and improve the yield and quality of target pharmaceutical compounds.
Wide shot of Plant Factory with LED lights on