The Role of Engineering in Vertical Farming

International Women in Engineering Day was created by Women’s Engineering Society (WES). This English charity was founded way back in 1919 at the end of WW1, when women who had been employed in technical fields during the war found it difficult to continue working as engineers. 

 The mission of The WES is to support women in engineering to fulfil their potential and work towards making the industry inclusive.  

Women in Engineering 

That’s where International Women in Engineering Day comes in. Celebrating its 10th year in 2023, this day aims to raise awareness globally and promote the fantastic work that is being done by women engineers around the world. In fact, here’s a list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering from 2022! 

“2021 figures indicate that in the UK only 16.5% of engineers are women” – INWED 

The above statistic shows that there is still some way to go, to get more women involved in engineering and other STEM related careers. We sat down with our Head of Engineering, Rosalyn Cheetham, to find out more about what led her to becoming an engineer from growing up.  

“My root to engineering started when I was younger, I grew up on a farm and I spent quite a lot of time with my father. Kind of working with the animals, but also kind of tinkering with tractors and cars and machinery and just had a fascination with how things worked, and how you could fix things.  

That led through at school where I excelled in maths and science-based subjects, and I then just found a route into engineering and chose mechanical engineering because of the broad spectrum of the sector.” 

Engineering is used for a variety of things in different industries, and this means the world of engineering is so varied for those who choose to follow a career within the industry. We asked Rosalyn what engineering meant to her. 

“What I see Engineering as, is a combination of technical expertise and creativity, and that can be for a whole host of things. Like going from the chair that I’m sat on right now, there’s an element of engineering that’s gone into that as well as the building and the construction site that’s outside the building. There’s lots of engineering that’s gone into that.  

It’s all around us, and it’s understanding that it’s not just the sort of heavy, labour intensive, dirty thing that obviously it tends to get labelled with. ”  

Engineering in Vertical Farming 

In vertical farming, engineering helps to make the process more efficient. Engineers need to solve the problem of how to provide indoor farms with an abundance or produce all year round. 

Structural Engineering 

Vertical farms are designed as the name suggests – with plants being grown in vertical layers. A key component to this technique is the use of hydroponics, which is to grow plants without using soil as a substrate.  

Structural engineering is important for the construction of vertical farms because this is what holds up all the equipment needed. This engineering provides the support for heavy weight loads, and in the whole design of the farm.  

Chemical Engineering 

Food is made up of various components, and chemical engineers can help to develop these in order to improve existing foods and flavours, alongside designing new foods. Taste and quality is always an important factor in producing the best produce for consumers. 

Mechanical Engineering 

Mechanical engineering is important in vertical farming because these plants are exposed to non-natural environments.  

Responsibilities might include designing new systems for managing the water and nutrients, ensuring lighting controls are working as they should or developing the engineering for the energy systems that are needed to support the farms.  

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