Advanced University plant growth facility receives significant investment to improve sustainability

The Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, working together with colleagues in EFM's Energy and Project's Team, has successfully been awarded £829k to modernise and significantly reduce the energy expenditure of the Sir David Read Controlled Environment Facility.

This investment, as part of the Salix Energy Efficiency Scheme, has been awarded to the department on the basis that it will vastly reduce the energy usage and carbon footprint of the facility, by £166,000 and 455 tonnes CO2 per year respectively.

The investment will be used to replace the existing plant growth lighting with state-of-the-art LED lighting from Valoya and Fluence, which as well as requiring much less energy will also provide a range of research benefits too. The enhanced lighting will give a spectral composition as close to that of natural sunlight as possible, and provide the ability to mimic sunrise and sunset conditions.

Mr Timo Blake, Controlled Environment Facilities Manager, from the Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, said: “As well as saving a huge amount of energy, this upgrade will give our researchers here in Sheffield access to some of the best controlled plant growth facilities in the world.

“By also upgrading the growth room control systems we will be able to accurately track weather conditions from different parts of the planet, along with the ability to use climate data from historical and modelled weather systems too.”

The Sir David Read Controlled Environment Facility was opened in 2004, after the culmination of a £10.4 million investment by the Joint Infrastructure Fund. This was followed by a more recent infrastructure investment of £3.6 million in 2016-17 as part of Plant Production and Protection (P3) translational biology centre.

The facility houses 71 growth rooms and chambers that are able to simulate the majority of terrestrial environments from tropical to polar regions as well as past and future global atmospheric environments including elevated and sub-ambient CO2 conditions.

Professor Duncan Cameron, from the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences and University Sustainability Lead for Academic Departments, and Tracy Wray, Sustainability Lead for Professional Services, stated: “This significant investment not only enhances our already state of the art facilities, it importantly aligns our research with the University’s developing sustainability strategy, supporting the university community to dramatically reduce the environmental impact of our teaching and research.

“The investment from the Salix fund will allow us to make significant reductions in our carbon footprint, meaning our world-leading research into environmentally sustainable futures will become even more sustainable.”