London-based tech start-up, Vertical Future, ties smart technologies together to make cities healthier, focusing on three urban themes: food, digital and living, as a launchpad for its ambitious plans. Founded by Jamie and Marie-Alexandrine Burrows, Vertical Future’s core mission is to boost efficient and sustainable food production to keep pace with population growth in cities, alleviate the pressure on health services by making the most of digital health technologies, and mitigating air pollution.
Urban farms and local food
Vertical Future’s agricultural initiative is a network of vertical farms across London using controlled environment agriculture (CEA) technology – making use of disused buildings and recycled shipping containers. Each farm will provide high quality year-round produce for schools and local communities, create jobs, and improve awareness of food sustainability and healthy eating. The initiative addresses population growth in cities and the effect that this could have on urban food supply and demand. The first site in south east London will be operational from April 2017 and plans are being drawn up for a second site in north London.
Leveraging digital health technologies
The company is using digital health to target two key health service issues: prevention, which is an increasing priority in the NHS, and patient follow-up, considering the increasing costs of an ageing population. Vertical Future’s first digital initiative supports people to be healthier through gamifying healthy activity and providing incentives. The second digital initiative uses smart data from real-world sources to provide people with additional support after leaving hospital. The Vertical Future team plans to launch the two initiatives this summer.
Tackling air pollution
More than 3 million people globally die every year from air pollution and in most major cities (including London) air quality exceeds safe levels. Vertical Future is working on a product to limit the impact of urban air pollution and improve public understanding of environmental risk factors. The product is currently in the development phase with a prototype expected by August 2017.
“We want to make cities better for our children” explained co-founder Jamie Burrows. “Our various urban initiatives are long-term responses to tackle the negative effects of urbanisation. To promote fast and sustainable growth, we are looking to work with research organisations, investors, government, and third sector organisations that share similar views on health and urbanisation” he added.
Jamie Burrows previously worked as a consultant specialising in healthcare and life science strategy. He spent a number of years working at consulting firms such as EY and Deloitte, which included a secondment in the Office for Life Sciences at the Department of Health. With an academic background in health economics and energy, trade, and finance, Burrows believes that much of the Vertical Future business directly relates to the central theme of health economics – resource scarcity.
Co-founder Marie-Alexandrine Burrows has a health research, psychology, human resources and service management background, which sets her apart in her interest in the psychological impact of increasing demand for resources, not only relating to health but also to wellbeing.
The company is funded by 50 per cent equity from the founders, and 50 per cent from HSBC Commercial Banking.