Well, it’s no secret that The Baltic Triangle is fast becoming the absolute go-to destination for food lovers in Liverpool… but did you know the neighbourhood is also home to a very different type of food hub?
Way down beneath the brick basement of the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC school – Liverpool’s first agri-lab is almost complete.
The basement is home to Farm Urban, a social enterprise founded by bio-scientists Paul Myers and Jens Thomas. In their alcove in the Baltic Triangle, this team is set to take their research and development of integrated urban farming systems to the next level.
“The way we currently grow, transport and eat food is inefficient, wasteful and unsustainable”, explains Paul, Farm Urban’s managing director.
“With the world’s population still rising and a growing number of us living in densely packed cities, finding ways to feed everyone and grow fresh food as locally as possible, has become an increasingly pressing problem”.
Farm Urban want to explore ways to produce food both innovatively and efficiently, right in the heart of Liverpool. It’s all very clever stuff.
Paul met Jens, Farm Urban’s technical director, whilst studying for their PhDs at the University of Liverpool in 2014. They might have been working in different areas of research but their shared desire to change society’s entire relationship with food is what brought the two together, luckily for us.
Away from the world of academia, Paul and Jens landed on urban farm systems as the vehicle through which to put their shared ambitions into action. With a dream and a plan, the pair have dived headfirst into a practical, bottom-up idea which could change things forever.
You see, an integrated urban farming system aims to produce as much food and as little waste, in as small a space as is physically possible. Beginning with aquaponics, the system of growing fish and vegetables together in a soilless, closed-loop ecosystem, Farm Urban have only moved onwards and upwards.
After an early flurry of research and development, these systems ended up installed at the University of Liverpool as well as Alder Hey Hospital. Farm Urban have got students on board too, working to design a ‘double helix’ system which now sits in the Liverpool Life Sciences UTC reception area, as well as a system at Ness Botanic Gardens on the Wirral.
The partnership with the UTC has led to further enrichment programmes at the school, as well as the company’s move into the basement of the building. Now focusing on bringing Farm Urban’s research into the wider community, work has started on delivering workshops to other schools, local community groups and businesses.
The workshops are doing wonders for the communities taking part. Challenging participants to build their own aquaponics systems without instructions – Farm Urban are raising the next generation of scientists, as communities come together to think, engage and try together. All for the good of the environment too. Amazing.
From August, Farm Urban will be running a summer school for young people who want to learn more about these hi-tech future food systems – a place where they can develop their STEM, business and enterprise skills too. The team are putting their all into engaging with local schools and neighbourhoods to excite and inspire people with their hi-tech, innovative approaches to food – seeking to change hearts and minds in the city and hopefully, the world.
It’s an exciting time to be inspired in Liverpool.
To find out more about Farm Urban and maybe get involved yourself, visit farmurban.co.uk/