Controlled Environment and agri-tech research
A thriving agri-tech sector will be a vital component of the push towards universal adoption of regulatory standards and increased uptake of environmental land management actions. New, commercially-viable technologies will help farmers, commercial growers and landowners to adapt their businesses, enabling a more sustainable, efficient and competitive agriculture industry.

The UK Government’s updated Agricultural Transition Plan calls for innovation in technology, equipment and infrastructure to support the development of future farming and precision agriculture.
At Plymouth, advancements in controlled environments, robotics and sensor technology are allowing us to develop practical agri-tech solutions to improve productivity, reduce emissions, and mitigate the impacts of climate change.
The success of our ERDF-funded Plant Factory provided a proof-of-concept approach to modular precision growing, and has led to further commercial development projects in both the sustainable food and pharmaceutical sectors.
We are developing innovative mobile solutions for deploying cutting-edge devices on location. Our suite of handheld scanners, animal-mounted devices, drones and agricultural robots offer fast data directly from the field.
Our location, facilities and partnerships allow us to provide the regional and national leadership needed to transform food production, create high-value jobs and contribute to net zero goals.

Our areas of expertise include:

What do we mean by agri-tech?

Advancements in the technology used by farmers and commercial growers are transforming traditional agricultural practices and boosting sustainable production across the entire supply chain. Our agri-tech includes devices, such as handheld sensors, drones and robotics, as well as animal-mounted devices, automated control systems, AI-integration and environmental data.

What are controlled environments?

Controlled environment agriculture includes a wide range of approaches to food production, including hydroponics, aquaculture, glasshouse growing and indoor vertical farming – essentially any growing system that allows the grower to control variables, such as light, temperature or humidity.

Featured controlled environments research

Innovation in Controlled Environment Agriculture

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
Dynamic lighting in the Plant Factory

Advancing Controlled Environment Agriculture

This project, funded by the BBSRC, aims to integrate dynamic LED lighting systems with artificial intelligence (AI) techniques. Working with commercial partners Phytome Research Limited, we are designing and testing a lighting system that incorporates spectrophotometers, advanced processing software, and AI-automated control systems to optimise plant growth at all life cycle stages.
Our technology is able to make data-driven decisions to adjust the environmental conditions needed to maximise light absorbance and the rate of photosynthesis in target food and medicinal crops.

More research from the Plant Factory

Our Plant Factory uses novel LED technology to grow crops in controlled hydroponic systems, providing solutions for health, food and water security.

Lettuces growing in the Plant Factory

Plant Factory Cornwall
Prototyping automated, programmable ‘light recipes’ to accurately deliver the necessary requirements for plants during their differing growth stages.

multi pipette research of cancer stem cells

Optimisation of Plant Factory systems
The production of clean pharmaceutical plant species with a stable, consistent concentration of important secondary metabolic products.

Plant factory basil under LED lights

Improving energy efficiency of a Plant Factory
Using specific light spectra, can we grow plants at higher temperatures to improve energy efficiency and reduce costs?


Our agri-tech projects and facilities

Agri-Tech Cornwall

University of Plymouth was a partner institution on the Agri-Tech Cornwall project, an £11.8 million initiative to help the United Kingdom become a world leader in agricultural technology and sustainability.
Researchers from the University shared their expertise and collaborated with small- and medium-sized Cornish businesses to support growth, productivity and market development in the sector.
Robot arm picking cauliflowers
Agri-tech and robotics equipment on the moor

Specialist facilities and equipment

All of the research carried out through CRISPS is supported by cutting-edge agri-tech equipment and specialist facilities, from high-precision aquaculture and molecular genetics laboratories, to controlled environment research centres and mobile land-level monitoring solutions.
Our facilities provide the technical capabilities and expertise required to further innovation in support of sustainable food production, coastal conservation and land management.



Collaborate with us

We are keen to collaborate with farmers, landowners and industry partners to further develop our research-driven approach to agri-tech and controlled environment agriculture. For more information about our work, or to enquire about partnerships, please contact:
Professor Richard Preziosi, Director, CRISPS, and Head of School, Biological and Marine Sciences:
Dr Jennifer Rowntree, Deputy Director, CRISPS, and Associate Professor of Ecological Genetics:

Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society

The Centre for Systems Thinking: Ocean, Land and Society champions a whole-system transdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research to improve planetary health. The Centre brings together an unrivalled critical mass of catchment-coast-ocean expertise from across the University’s Strategic Research Institutes to address 21st-century challenges alongside national and international policy. 
Centre for Systems Thinking
Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy

Centre for Decarbonisation and Offshore Renewable Energy 

In response to climate change imperatives, we are bringing together a critical mass of leading research and expertise from across the University of Plymouth. Through co-creation and collaboration with partners from business, government and key communities from across the globe, the Centre aims to be a beacon for the University’s whole-system transdisciplinary approach to solutions-oriented research, accelerating sustainable developments in decarbonisation and renewable energy.

Interdisciplinary Strategic Institutes

Our diverse research spans three Strategic Institutes. Collaborative endeavour in rich, natural environments drives solutions to global challenges.

Aerial view from high altitude of little planet earth with small village houses and distant green cultivated agricultural fields with growing crops on bright summer evening

Sustainable Earth Institute
Science, engineering, arts, humanities, health and business, with community, businesses and individuals, innovate to build resilience for our planet.

Close-up wave

Marine Institute
Marine, maritime, education and innovation expertise integrate to train scientists, engineers, policymakers, artists, technicians and business.

abstract medical pharmacy healthcare innovative concept background

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research (PIHR)
Transformation in life course, ageing, methodologies, e-health, technology and interventions in health, social care, lifestyle, health and wellbeing.