Innovator story: Grow Bristol – hydroponic leaf production

Innovator story: Grow Bristol – hydroponic leaf production

Hydroponic leaf production is a method of farming where plants are grown with nutrients and water but without soil. In climate controlled settings, water and nutrients are delivered to the root system. Seeds are planted in a soil-like substance, such as rockwool, which has excellent water holding capacity to encourage plant growth.

Because of the ideal growing conditions, plants are able to grow robust and rapidly regardless of the season outside. Hydroponic farming provides reliable, predictable, and repeatable, safe food production all year round.

Here’s Dermot’s vision for the future
In a couple of years’ time I’d like to be part of a big urban farm, based around hydroponic leaf production, with complementary integrated food production systems. I see it as a three phased plan, and we’re in the first phase – a kind of pilot

Wait what?
It would include things like aquaculture, a mushroom farm, insect farm; all sorts of things connecting each other.

What’s the benefit of that kind of operation?
If we join together on one site, we’d share an office, share distribution, share costs. There is a guy around the corner making salad lunch boxes for Bristol’s office workers – he could come in and use our products. They’ve got vans; I’ve got a trike – why wouldn’t we all be together in a hub?

Beyond production and distribution, this site would be a place for learning. There could be a classroom, a restaurant, a greengrocer, a marketplace at the weekend, even space for outdoor growing.

How are you planning to get this up and rolling?
We’re trying to get to the hub idea of the ground by networking and working together. It’s a tough environment for small growers and makers. All you need is a small percentage of the 95% shopping at supermarkets to start shopping at these places and you’d be all right…

Are there broader benefits to this kind of collaboration?
On the technical side, on food production, there is a lot of wastage. Take a bakery as an example – bakeries waste all their heat. I asked a baker where does the heat go from your oven and they said it goes outside. That’s a resource – you could heat that systems and save a lot of energy. So we are working together to design our project in a way that can be zero waste.

There are also the employment opportunities. Around here you’ve got Lawrence Hill and Barton Hill, they’re in the lowest 10% deprivation in the UK. So we could provide access to jobs, learning and fresh food to these people.

Find out more about Grown Bristol here.

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