Agri-tech firm LettUs Grow, has announced it will fast-track the building of two vertical farm modules in Bristol to help feed vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company, which has won a number of awards for its ethical practices, is teaming up with the food redistribution charity FareShare South West to ensure the produce gets to those who need it most.

LettUs Grow expects the first of the new aeroponic farm modules to be ready to start producing fresh produce later this month, with the first harvests ready to be delivered to FareShare just 10 days after the farm’s commissioning. A second, larger module will be following in June.

Because most of the farm’s operations are automated, they can be run with only one person on-site at any given time to allow social distancing of key workers and minimising strain on an already stretched farm labour force.

Once up and running, the farms will be able to provide a consistent, predictable and climate-resilient food supply to the local community year-round.

The coronavirus outbreak has shone a spotlight on the fragility of the UK’s just-in-time food supply chain. The UK only produces 50% of the food it consumes, which leaves it vulnerable to shocks in the global supply chain.

Jack Farmer, co-founder and chief scientific officer of LettUs Grow, said: “When we founded LettUs Grow, we wanted to enable anyone, anywhere in the world, to grow fresh produce near its point of consumption.

“That mission has hardly ever felt as urgent as it does today. We knew we had to get involved and help in any way we could.

Because our farm modules can be deployed anywhere with an electricity and water supply, they are uniquely positioned to increase regions’ food supply chain resilience by diversifying local food production.

FareShare provides close to one million meals a week to frontline charities and community groups.

As the Coronavirus situation develops, the charity has seen demand for its service rising, particularly in the event of closures of schools, workplaces and public spaces.

Phoebe Ruxton, fundraising manager at FareShare South West said: “We are absolutely determined not only to stay open but to level up our organisation as far as we possibly can to stop the very worst happening.

“While supermarkets seem empty, there are thousands of tonnes of surplus food in the system. There is no other organisation in the region with the capacity to redistribute this food, and FareShare South West is well placed to deliver it straight to those most in need.”