2021’s proved another busy year for the Farm Urban team; we’ve worked on a range of projects with partners as diverse as the Welsh Government, RIBA and community groups across Birkenhead. Here’s a taster – pun intended – of some of the things we’ve been working on.

Crop Cycle

The Welsh Government’s Crop Cycle project brought together community organisations across Wales and expert organisations working with Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA). 

Farm Urban worked alongside other experts including LettUs Grow, Digital Farming and GrowStack over spring and summer 2021. It allowed like-minded groups to connect after the first COVID lockdown, developing new relationships, building networks, and sharing ideas. We installed our Edible Walls within communities across Wales, which allowed us to develop our approach to managing our technologies, and how we pass on that information. We built a user guide to train local staff, make the Edible Wall more accessible and empower our partner organisations to take control of the systems in their spaces. 

Farm Urban also visited primary schools that were local to our project partners to deliver our aquaponics workshops. We trained our partners to deliver the workshop, increasing the number of young people in the UK who can learn about sustainable food solutions through hands-on experience of building their own Produce Pod.

We worked with community organisations across the country, including Green Meadow Community Farm in Cwmbran, Welcome to our Woods in Treherbert, Xplore! Science Discovery Centre in Wrexham, Cultivate and the Neath Port Talbot College’s Community Growing Space in Newton.

Community Edible Walls: Make

Residents from across Birkenhead came together at Make Hamilton to build and operate one of Farm Urban’s innovative hydroponic Edible Wall systems. Over a six-week programme, participants took the lead – guided by our team – to build skills while growing their own food, and experiment with ways of using hydroponics. It also gave them the opportunity to learn about and discuss the broader context of global food systems – and how to make healthier and more sustainable food choices. 

Funded by Liverpool City Region’s Community Environment Fund, the Community Edible Walls had a number of positive impacts, including:

  1. Friendships that strengthen community connections, building relationships for people through shared experiences and interests.
  2. Learning about food growing and the systems led to behaviour change. Participants were more conscious about what they were eating, where it came from, and its environmental impacts. 
  3. New skills meant that participants were able to grow food at home, take over the maintenance of the Edible Wall, and gain transferable technical and teamworking skills.

We delivered Community Edible Walls in partnership with Make CIC, the good people of Birkenhead and LCR’s Community Environment Fund.

The Heath – promo video 

SOG, owner of Runcorn’s The Heath Business Park, has a vision to build a new kind of development, integrating housing, entertainment, retail, business and innovation. RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) put out a call for designs for the project – with one entry featuring a vertical farm at its centre. The fusion process which followed took the best ideas from the designs, with the vertical farm catching their attention. Paul Myers, Farm Urban’s managing director, was brought in as a consultant, to advise on the practicalities of creating a vertical farm that integrates into their holistic development. 

As a result of the collaboration, a Greens for Good serviced Edible Wall is being installed in the cafeteria, giving users of the park access to fresh greens every day. The Heath shares its location with the North West Hydrogen Alliance, which means we’ve been able to conduct a pilot project to test the viability of powering a vertical farm using electricity from hydrogen fuel cells, making sure this power-intensive process is carbon neutral. The new developments at The Heath are incredibly exciting, offering huge potential for new technologies and ways of living to be tested. A mini-city, with a vertical farm at its heart, gives us a way to test the scalability of these technologies to whole cities, putting vertical farms at the heart of daily urban life. Key support has been offered by Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram says the project ‘must happen’.

Sustainable Steps

We’ve developed and designed an online interactive platform for Liverpool John Moores University. Sustainable Steps will provide learners with access to knowledge that is key to making effective change. In this  collection of mini courses, each session provides an accessible introduction to the science of climate change, the underlying causes and its effects on the natural world and our personal wellbeing. It includes actionable elements of environmental science and sustainability that every single one of us can employ.  

Future Food Challenge 

We’re lending our aquaponics experience to a new competition for school students, which we launched this autumn.

Future Food Challenge is an extra-curricular programme for Year 9 secondary school pupils in Liverpool City Region, funded by the Royal Academy of Engineers (RAE), that sees us working in partnership with University of Liverpool’s School of Engineering. 

Teams of between 12 and 15 young people have been challenged to develop a business idea and prototype system to bring aquaponic food growing into their local community. Each school has been paired with a professional engineer and a student engineer from the university who will mentor and inspire the young people involved throughout the challenge. 

Future Food Heroes

We’ve also put together Future Food Heroes for Year 5 pupils across Liverpool, helping them to explore zero-waste food and a circular economy. 

We’re working in partnership with Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority (MWRA) and Patagonia to see each school buddied with a student mentor. The mentors are made up of a group of young people who’re passionate about sustainability and community-building, who will support teachers and pupils to develop project ideas to bring sustainable food growing into their own communities.

Farm Urban Newsletter: A packed year of projects