FARM: believe that urban agriculture needs to be ecological and economically sound.
We have developed an approach which combines aquaculture, hydroponics, worms and poultry in a low energy and low waste farming system. The techniques we use grow large amounts of food in a small space so are ideal for urban areas.
Our methods are based on facts, not hype - the results of a Life Cycle Assessment into our supply chain.
Hydroponics & aquaponics
Hydroponics is the growing of plants in water, without soil. It results in faster crop growth and high quality produce. This soil free method lends itself to vertical and high density growing as nutrient laden water can be readily pumped to where the plants are located.
Aquaponics is the growing of plants and farming of fish together in a hydroponic system. Fish such as Tilapia, Carp, Goldfish, Trout or Perch are raised in tanks or ponds. The waste they produce is converted into nutrient for plants by nitrifying bacteria. This nutrient is absorbed by the plants helping to keep the water clean for the fish.
Though hydroponics has been shown to use less water than field agriculture it is not without its environmental challenges as unlike aquaponics or vermiponics, hydroponic nutrients are often fossil fuel based and imported.
FARM: are looking for Partners making hydroponic nutrient from local waste sources as we believe this is likely to prove an attractive alternative to aquaponics in years to come.
Mushrooms are the ideal crop for growing in cities. They travel poorly and crop is often damaged before reaching customers and their short shelf life means they quickly spoil. Better still they can be grown inside so are an ideal crop for empty garages, buildings or shipping containers. Less well known is that most commercial mushroom farms use vast amounts of energy to sterilize the medium in which mushrooms are grown (this stops household mould and other spores growing) and temperatures must be closely controlled for fruiting. FARM: are working on new methods for sterilization and design of mushroom growing areas to solve this problem and bring down production costs.
Chickens, ducks and quail are excellent recycler of waste food and well suited to an urban environment. Rooftops and vacant yards provide a good opportunity to farm them in spacious and ethical conditions. As with most agriculture the practice only becomes economical at scale. The four-hen chicken coop at FARM:shop produces 1200 eggs per year, enough for 3 egg sandwiches a day, but much too small for a commercial operation.
Having experimented with a range of growing lights at FARM:shop we are able to advise on the right solution for our project with our partners at Phillip Horticulture Team.
Horticultural Lighting can have a huge carbon footprint so where possible food should be grown in sunlight with lighting only used in darker months.
In our experience LED’s offer an excellent alternative to fluorescent or sodium lighting, particularly for leafy green and vertical growing. We are currently researching the use of LED’s in flowering and fruiting.