Breakthrough in biofortified foods: Aeroponic vertical farming yields vitamin B12-enriched pea shoots

In a groundbreaking interdisciplinary collaboration, the British vertical farming company Ro-Gro, in partnership with the John Innes Centre, the Quadram Institute, and LettUs Grow, has succeeded in commercially cultivating the world’s first biofortified pea shoots containing an enriched source of vitamin B12. This achievement marks a significant advancement in the field of biofortified foods and sustainable agricultural practices.

Ro-Gro's vitamin B12 enriched pea shoots

The innovative process involves the integration of ultrasonic aeroponic technology developed by LettUs Grow into Ro-Gro’s vertical farming operations. Aeroponics, a soil-less cultivation method, involves the irrigation of plants with a nutrient-dense mist, thereby increasing oxygen availability and enhancing plant health while minimizing resource utilization.

Aeroponic system

Notably, this aeroponic system enables the unique fortification of seedlings with vitamin B12, a nutrient typically absent in plants. By capitalizing on this technological advantage, Ro-Gro has successfully enriched their pea shoots with a sufficient quantity of vitamin B12 to provide an adult’s recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1.5 microgrammes in a mere 15-gramme serving.

Professor Martin Warren, Chief Scientific Officer at the Quadram Institute and a joint lead researcher on the underlying study, emphasized the significance of this development, stating: “This marks a thrilling advancement in bolstering overall health and well-being through acquiring sufficient dietary intake of vitamin B12.” He further highlighted the importance of adequate B12 intake for red blood cell formation, healthy nerve function, energy production, and the prevention of persistent fatigue and weakness.

Collaborative effort

The collaborative effort involved the expertise of plant scientists, nutritionists, and horticultural engineers, combining their knowledge to address nutritional deficiencies through innovative crop production methods. Professor Antony Dodd, Head of Cell and Developmental Biology at the John Innes Centre, underscored the potential of this approach, saying: “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.”

In addition to their elevated vitamin B12 content, the biofortified pea shoots from Ro-Gro are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fibre and protein, making them a nutritionally dense addition to a healthy diet.

Ro-Gro’s vertical indoor farming practices align with sustainable agricultural principles, including efficient space utilization, water conservation through recycling, elimination of pesticide use, and the avoidance of fertilizers and soil requirements.

The success of this collaborative project paves the way for further advancements in biofortified food production, with Ro-Gro planning to develop additional nutrient-enhanced salad products in the future.

  • For more information, visit Ro-Gro