In an industry first, vertical farm Ro-Gro has cultivated biofortified pea shoots with added Vitamin B12, available in Spring 2024 to retailers and hospitality.

A joint collaboration between vertical farm Ro-Gro, plant and microbiology research institute the John Innes Centre, food and health bioscience facility, the Quadram Institute, and indoor farming tech firm LettUs Grow has resulted in the very first pea shoots biofortified with vitamin B12 coming to market. The pea shoots grown in Ro-Gro’s vertical farm in Kent are biofortified with B12, using ultrasonic aeroponic technology developed by LettUs Grow.

Shooting success

Bringing agricultural and nutritional science together, this groundbreaking development in food production is a significant step forward in developing biofortified food but also demonstrates the success of combining tech and farming to create a sustainable food system in this country. Ro-Gro is the first company to bring this product to market.

Jason Perrot, Managing Director and Head grower at Ro-Gro said:

“We’re excited to adopt such advanced farming techniques to be more sustainable and also produce nutritious food. Only by working together across a multitude of disciplines of science and industry including agriculture, engineering and biotechnology can we address some of our biggest challenges like looking after our land and our health. The B12 biofortified pea shoot is a wonderful example of what can happen when we work together. And all this – from producing the pea seed to the biofortified pea shoot – can be done right here on British farms, year-round. Now, that’s exciting!”

World leading technology

Ultrasonic aeroponic technology developed by LettUs Grow uniquely enables seedlings to be nutritionally enhanced with a vitamin not normally found in plants. With aeroponics, plants are grown without soil and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist – this benefits the plant by increasing access to oxygen and boosting plant health, as well as lessening resource use. Importantly, the environmental benefits of aeroponics scale effectively, so growing nutritionally enhanced crops can be expanded to serve a growing public demand for healthy produce. Plants grown using this method can stay fresher for longer, Ro-Gro guarantee the shelf life for 14 days, and a small serving contains an adult RDA of Vitamin B12.

Jack Farmer, Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at LettUs Grow said:

“It’s brilliant to see this project transition over the past few years from initial concept, to demonstration, and now into commercial reality. Working in concert with the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute and our funding partners, we believe we’ve identified not only a significant scientific advancement but also a novel way to use aeroponics to cost efficiently improve the lives of many people struggling with B12 deficiency across the country. Working with Ro-Gro to get the benefits of this research out into the real world is the crucial next step. We’re very excited to have such a good partner on board to help commercialise this innovation.”

Good for people

A major benefit of biofortified food is the added nutrients are more readily absorbed by the body. A 15g portion of Ro-Gro Pea Shoots will provide an adult’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1.5µg (micrograms) of Vitamin B12. This was the first vitamin to be selected for biofortification at Ro-Gro as it is a common deficiency, particularly for those on a plant-based diet.

Prof. Martin Warren, Chief Scientific Officer at the Quadram Institute who jointly led the underlying research said:

“This marks a thrilling advancement in bolstering overall health and well-being through acquiring sufficient dietary intake of vitamin B12. We require B12 to ensure the formation of red blood cells and healthy nerves, and as the vitamin plays a key role in energy production, good levels of the nutrient help prevent persistent fatigue and weakness. Given the propensity for B12 deficiency among individuals, particularly those adhering to plant-based diets, ensuring adequate intake is imperative. While supplements are an option, obtaining essential nutrients from whole foods is more appealing and straightforward for many. The emergence of biofortified plants offers a promising avenue for seamlessly meeting nutritional needs.”

The pea shoots also contain vitamins A, C and K, as well as a source of fibre and protein, all of which are important for a healthy diet. Another bonus of biofortified pea shoots retain sufficient micronutrients to improve human health.

Good for the planet

Ro-Gro operates a vertical indoor farm, their ethos is to enable farming methods that contribute to more sustainable, healthier diets with minimal environmental impact. The green benefits of vertical farming include an efficient use of space, using less water than traditional farming as it can be reused. The benefit of farming within a contained space also means that no pesticides are required, and no fertiliser or soil is needed.

Prof. Antony Dodd, Head of Cell and Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre who conducted research in his laboratory to deliver this technology, said:

“Advances in understanding of how plants interact with their environments, including new horticultural technologies such as vertical farms that use aeroponics, provides exciting opportunities to produce crops that are more nutritious, with less environmental impact. By combining expertise in plant sciences, human nutrition and horticultural engineering, we are developing new approaches to address nutritional deficiencies, at relatively low cost.”

Pea shoots are the first biofortified product from Ro-Gro, yet the team has plans to continue to develop further salad products with added nutritional value.

Available to retail and hospitality

Microgreens are becoming increasingly popular with chefs and the health-conscious population due to their concentrated flavour and antioxidants. Ro-Gro’s Pea Shoots with B12 are ideal for chefs or home cooks looking to add nutrition, elegance and flavour to finished dishes. Grown in the Garden of England, always fresh, they have a guaranteed shelf life of 14 days.

Ro-Gro will be showcasing the new B12 Pea Shoots, biofortified with vitamin B12, at the IFE (International Food & Drink Event) from the 25th to 27th March at ExCeL London, you can find Ro-Gro at the Start-Up Market 571n. Ro-Gro will also be at the Farm Shop & Deli Show from 29th April to 1st May at NEC Birmingham stand P269.

Available to retailers, chefs and hospitality in spring 2024, Ro-Gro B12 Pea Shoots will be available in 60g punnets.
Please contact jason@ro-gro.uk for orders or visit ro-gro.uk for more info.

Scientific research that developed this technology was funded by UKRI-BBSRC research grants BB/X512229/1, BB/P013511/1 and BB/X01102X/1.

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