Category: Events


All hail the mighty Pea! Seedlips beautiful garden at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Last night we had the wonderful experience of visiting the Seedlip garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.

Winning Gold for their ‘Space to Grow’ garden we were keen to see the mighty Pea in all it’s glory. As an ode to this wonderfully familiar veg the entire garden was made up of plants from the Fabaceae family, including a world wide debut of the new Speckled Snap Pea.

Among this newcomer sat multiple varieties of pea, as well as beautiful Lupins, Blue Wild Indigo, the Carob Tree, Red Clover and Legumes.

Seedlip Garden Species

With much of Chelsea focused on foliage plants it was wonderful to Seedlip incorporate so many edible species in to their garden. Growing vegetables in our own gardens is becoming increasingly popular, and with the urban agriculture movement, many people in cities are finding and utilising small spaces to get green fingered – as a showcase for the creme de la creme of garden design it’s incredibly important Chelsea Flower Show adapts to encourage more people to grow both edibles and natives species to boost biodiversity and encourage wildlife back into our gardens.

All in all it was PEAliciously PEAutiful.

Seedlip Lupins

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SEEDLIP & THEIR PEAS.

Prometheus food lab travels to the Italian Alps to speak at a conference held by Dolomitti Contemporanee

Our resident Lorenzo Barbasetti di Prun has traveled to the Italian Alps this week to speak at Direct Current Method, a conference held by Dolomitti Contemporanee about his ambition of starting Prometheus, an open food lab based in the Dolomite region to promote regeneration of a neglected area. Lorenzo has summarised the conference and his contribution to it below for us:

Can researching edibles contribute to regenerating landscapes in remote areas?

Of course. That is what Prometheus, our open food lab based in the Dolomites, believes.
To present this belief we have been invited to take part in Direct Current Method, the conference curated by Dolomiti Contemporanee addressing the challenges and opportunities in the regeneration of territories in the Dolomites, on the 20th of April.

I still struggle to define exactly what Dolomiti Contemporanee is, despite having worked closely with them for a while now.  They are the organisation giving Prometheus food lab a space and constant support. Using their own words ‘Dolomiti Contemporanee is a laboratory for visual arts in space’. I would say it is a process, a catalyst for the regeneration of underestimated spaces. It acts like a wishful thinker pioneer in those places that used to be of crucial importance for their communities, making them fertile again; vibrant through cultural practice.

The conference will be an occasion to gather a selection of eminent projects operating on different levels in the Italian Alps, both within and outside the Dolomites. The speakers are called to bring their practices to the strategic yet critic mountain space, both looking at the environment on a wider context and focusing on specific abandoned or underused sites, the potential of which is still intact.
One of those in fact will be the frame of our reflections; the impressively regenerated hydroelectric power plant in Malnisio, Friuli Venezia Giulia that also offered the pretext for the title.

Direct Current Method addresses the narrowness of certain cultural and social policies that are intermittently proving themselves to be inconsistent and ephemeral, not able to root in the place and grow with the community. On the other hand culture intended by DC as the human cognitive and creative, planning and operational function is a constant flux, able to activate or re-activate; to nourish virtuous and sustainable practices.

The architect Edoardo Gellner, demiurge of the former ENI Village in Borca di Cadore refers to landscape as the combination of the natural environment and human activity.

It is therefore impossible to talk about landscape regeneration without considering food. The relationship between humans and food is obvious, but human strategies to get nutrients nowadays can be destructive both when involving massive exploitation of the land or totally neglecting it. Placing resilience and survival as the goal of humankind it is equally as dangerous as the deforestation of an hectare of virgin forest and the abandonment of the same surface of grazing land. In both cases the local community is deprived of its sustenance and its culture. In fact food is not only nutrition but it carries with it a set of values and knowledge which is unique. At the same time the cultural practices related to food production, preservation, transformation and consumption have been historically developed to take as much as possible from the environment whilst simultaneously preserving it, so that it could keep providing food and sustain the community year after year.

Since the end of the last World War the alpine areas have been experiencing an actual exodus towards the big industrial poles all over the world and more recently the phenomenon has worsened due to policies that impose cuts to local services and the subsequent weakening of the social fabric. This meant a huge cultural loss even in terms of adaptability and now that some bold and adventurous people want to return to live in these spaces, escaping from cities and urban living, their goal is likely to fail because so much has already been lost from these regions. The direct keepers of knowledge and competences are gone, the grazing land has been invaded by untamed forests, seeds selected for generations have been lost. Even laws have adapted to a different conception of life and landscape and don’t fit to these places anymore.

The modern forms of thoughtless tourism looking for amusement; the bowing down of privates and institutions to investors’ blackmailing has worsened the already fragile situation of these lands and their communities. The illusory flow of capitals and the revivals of traditions as a means of entertainment have eventually weakened the community fabric, exploiting local resources and have contributed an unsustainable economy in an environment with fragile balances. Locals gave up many of the strategies that had taken centuries to be developed, losing awareness, knowledge and therefore resilience.

Prometheus Lab logo

Prometheus_lab is a research hub aimed to explore the remote places of our minds to generate, collect and (re)distribute knowledge about food. It operates as a cultural device to re-activate awareness and support resilience in those neglected places that even being right in front of our eyes are completely invisible to our sensibility because we’re not educated to recognise their potential.

If you think about the basic human needs – food is the most important; there is no life without food and there is no doubt at the same time that it is the first and most powerful element shaping the landscapes we live in. It is able to change the perspective with which we look at the world, it is capable of flipped over the frameworks of meaning that relegate places to remoteness. Remoteness as a mental state. We are exploring these remote locations of the mind and culture as if they were another planet entirely. We are trans-dimensional explorers in this space that is both virginal and yet already violated in the most intimate meaning of the word. We look for intelligent life forms that may be able to generate intelligent forms of life.

Winter foraging sessionExpedition #1: Winter Foraging Session. photo: Giulia Fassina

Quite surprisingly my experience in London has revealed concerns for food exploration in a way I would never have expected. I had never thought there was anything remote about a densely populated mega city with 11 million inhabitants. Despite the large disposal of social and economic resources, food is still a problem which had been underestimated until Brexit abruptly changed the game. More than half of the food consumed in the UK comes from abroad and the raising tariffs applied to imported goods impose not only organisations but also citizens to explore new solutions. Or rather, old ones. In fact at the last openhouse event hosted at Green Lab we reflected on a what resilient food system after Brexit might look like, calling to mind the Dig for Victory campaign used during WWII. Shall we all become farmers, or shall we reconvert any tiny green plot of land, any balcony or bath tub into a growing surface to produce more food locally? The answer is much more complex than what have the possibility to develop here but what is interesting from my perspective is the perception of the urban landscape related to food.

London is dotted with green areas, reservoirs and huge parks; most of the houses have some square meter of courtyard, without even talking about the random flowerbeds along the streets or the cemeteries that often grow wild. All this potential seems to be largely neglected and people seem unaware of the criticality and opportunities of these areas; what is already growing around them and how they can be involved in a more conscious and fruitful relationship with urban life for mutual support.

Boite RiverBoite river, Cadore, Italy. Photo: Giulia Fassina.

The future UK food policy – presentation by James Elliott from Green Alliance

Last week at our #openhouse we had James Elliott from Green Alliance in to discuss the future of UK food after Brexit and the need to create a resilient and sustainable food system.

Jame’s highlighted the need for serious change both on our own soil and globally when it comes to producing food – with much of current agriculture practice being unsustainable.

Here are the main points discussed in his presentation:

‘The damage farming is doing to the environment is undermining the very ability to farm and grow food in the future – So how can we make food production more sustainable?’

The sustainability of agriculture in the UK is of particular importance as over 70% of our land is farmed (a much higher average compared to the rest of Europe). Globally soils are degrading, the worlds aquifers are over-exlpoited, mass deforestation is taking place worldwide to make room for farming, the global food system contributes to a quarter of green house gas emissions and we are seeing rapid biodiversity loss due to food production.

Having said this, compared to global standards UK agriculture is relatively good having low natural capital costs compared to other countries around the world, however, whilst we are ahead of many other countries, we are still degrading the environment and undermining farm productivity.

Taking East Anglia as an example, one of our most productive farming regions with over half of the best farm land in the UK – we are rapidly loosing top soil and most of the surface water is in a poor condition – and with a 1 degree temperature rise the rate of soil loss is only set to increase.

What does the Government plan to do about this?

Most of our policies for food production and food standards have been set by EU law and regulations for decades. In particular the Common Agricultural Policy has entirely shaped our current farming system and practices. Brexit presents the first opportunity for radical reform, where we would be able to set our own policy. The Government has been clear that they want a ‘Green Brexit’ and have released several important plans and strategies in the past year which show strong ambition for the environment. The most recent of which is a consultation paper on the future of agriculture and land management in the UK. The main proposal is to change farm payments so that government money is used to pay for public goods like a healthy natural environment.

This is a massive step in the right direction for the UK, however, it wont solve environmental problems on its own as it largely focuses on domestic farming rather than looking at the food system as a whole.

Also the way we produce food is driven by a whole host of factors other than governmental policy – with consumer demand having a large impact, the willingness to pay a certain price, and what food businesses themselves demand from farmers.

How does the Governments plan to fix this:

A 25year plan for the environment that commits to ensuring that our food is “produced sustainably and profitably”, that all soils are managed sustainably by 2030, and that achieves clean and plentiful water by improving 3 quarters of water bodies to be close to their natural state.

Clean Growth Strategy that puts carbon sequestration on land and enhancing natural capital at the heart of a strategy for growth. Specific commitments include massively increasing tree cover in England, to 12 per cent by 2060, and innovation investment focused on areas including low carbon fertilisers, soil health and low emission farming.

Industrial Strategy. Sets out a new ‘Transforming food production: from farm to fork’ programme, including £90 million as part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge fund to bring together AI, robotics and earth observation to improve supply chain resilience in the agri-food sector. This creates a new Food and Drink Sector Council to capture leadership opportunities in sustainable food and agriculture.

Agriculture Command Paper. Sets out proposals for a new environmental land management system to replace the Common Agricultural Policy, which would replace subsidy for land ownership with targeted payments for farming that provides “environmental public goods” such as improved soil health, improved water quality and increased biodiversity.

But 'farming' is not the same as food

Whilst reforming agricultural policy would be a big step in the right direction, this does not tackle the whole problem as ‘farming’ is not the same as food.

The sustainability of imported foods is determined by the direct environment this food is farmed in, and the standards that these countries adhere to. Ultimately we always loose an element of control whenever we import food, as we have to trust that other nations are producing it in a way we would want. This also has an impact on the standards of food within the UK as farmers may be undermined by cheaper imports with lower standards.

Looking at food as a whole rather than just farming is fundamental as 66% of our calories come from processed foods, with farming accounting to only 8% of the value of the UK agri-food sector. While consumers feel that food prices are high most farms would be making a loss without government subsidies under current practice.

Finally our own knowledge about what we’re eating, where it comes from and how its produced is surprisingly low, creating a void of understanding between consumers and farmers.

what might the future food system look like?

After Brexit, if the government decides to reduce or remove import tariffs on food most of our food imports would switch from mainly coming from the EU to coming from the rest of the world. This could have a negative impact on food production in the UK as many of our own farms won’t be able to compete with the lower prices countries outside of the UK can produce food for. This could also encourage UK farmers to farm more intensively in order to be competitive. Importing food from outside of the EU would also make it more difficult to ensure high standards of food. For example illegal pesticide levels are found nearly 3 times as often in produce from outside of the EU.

And if we do end up doing trade deals their is a good chance we may trade away important standards. Most potential scenarios will lead to some degree of loss of control if new policies are not put in place.

If we trade with the US?

The US has already identified certain areas of EU regulations as to strict, meaning that if we make a trade deal with them we are likely to import chlorine washed chicken, hormone treated beef and pork, genetically modified foods and poorer quality dairy products. They have also criticised the EU maximum for residue levels of certain pesticides (MRL) – a trade deal with them could lead to lifting bans on certain pesticides. The US again has stated the EU’s rules regarding the tractability of meat products (country of origin labelling and animal welfare statements on import certficates) as unnecessarily restricting.

Taking all of the above into consideration it is clear that we need complimentary policies on a full range of food related areas in order to create a sustainable food system – agricultural policy alone is not enough.Outside of the EU we will need to set our own food and production standards in an open and transparent way, leading the path to a sustainable food system. In order to do this the government must uphold our food standards, and not risk trading them away to make unsustainable deals. By implementing the new agricultural policy being proposed whilst simultaneously encouraging people to connect to their food and increase understanding of where our food comes from and hows its produced we stand the chance to have an important impact.

We also used the evening as a chance to discuss whether urban agriculture has a place within the future of our food systems and whether one day growing in the city will need to be taken into consideration when making policy changes. Their is a debate as to whether it will ever have a significant impact to UK food production or whether it will merely play a small supporting role – but perhaps that is enough? If it encourages consumers to grow themselves and also develop an understanding of their food sources perhaps that is all it needs to do?

We shall see…

If you want to take part in our next #openhouse and join the debate on how to create sustainable futures sign up to a free ticket.

 

 

Green Lab takes part in Grow Wild 2018 – Tasty Natives

Green Lab is pleased to announce that we have been selected by The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to take part in Grow Wild UK 2018, a community project that aims to bring people together through activities that connect their community and celebrate UK native wildflowers, plants and/or fungi.

With food, water and waste being our fundamental concerns, the Green Lab team will be exploring the native species that are easy to grow in the British climate and should make more of a steady appearance in our meals.

The project will be led by Green Lab resident Ana Jaramillo, who will open the lab for members of the community who wish to take part in a series of educational and gastronomic experiences. With the participation of local chefs/cooks and Green Lab volunteers, we will grow, cook and curate a tantalising set of dishes for the Grow Wild UK 2018 “Tasty Natives: sustainable cooking experience”. From starters to desserts, there is a wide range of options to be explored.

‘Tasty Natives’ will bring together the local community and provide them with knowledge about the importance of sustainable food production and its relationship with native species, flowers and fungi.

native wild common thyme

Thymus Polytrichus – Native wild common thyme

With our reliance on food to survive we will use this as an opportunity to discuss various sustainable food options, how we can collectively tackle our growing food demand, how to minimise and utilise food waste, food scarcity, and more circular growing and consuming systems. With this interactive gastronomic experience we hope to inspire the community to take action!

Our collective experience throughout the project will be curated into a crowd sourced digital recipe book, ‘Tasty Natives’, including ideas and recipes from the those that partake in the project.

We hope that our ‘Tasty Natives’ project will become a nationwide educational tool and source of inspiration for anyone to get more involved with their locally grown produce and experiment cooking with new ingredients, supporting the Grow Wild initiative.

If you have a few hours to spare and wish to be part of the Tasty Natives volunteering team please do not hesitate to contact Ana Jaramillo: ana.jaramillo@greenlab.org. The project will be great fun to take part in and an edible journey, we also need to people with a plethora of different skills so if you haven’t grown before or cooking isn’t your strong point their are still many ways for you to get involved!

Our first event for Tasty Natives will be an #openhouse day on Saturday 14th April, come along to find out more about the project and taste some natives – tickets are FREE.

Arts Work of the Future – collaborative project with Digital Makers Collective at the TATE Exchange

Last week Green Lab took part in the Arts Work of the Future – a project run by the Digital Makers Collective from UAL at the Tate Exchange.

The project looked to explore the role of technology in the arts and how this will impact the future of our creativity. As we continue to live in an age of rapid technological change we need to explore how this will impact all areas of our lives and industry. By embracing these advancements we can utilize technology to create, make and grow towards the best possible future.

The digital maker collective transformed the Tate Exchange into a large public innovation hub, exploring different forms of technological advancement and inviting both makers and the public to get involved, contributing a hands on experience to the event.

Green Lab was part of the ‘Growing Space‘, contributing seedlings, plants and technology for growing.

green lab seedlings

About Growing Space –

‘A collaborative project about local collection and sustainable, communal space.

This project is the adaptation of a greenhouse in an indoor environment, raising questions about sustainability. Since it is locally sourced with non-specialist materials from recycling circuits, it is aimed to be easy to build on its own, as a modular framework that can be replicated by anyone.

The modularity of the space provides an expanding and growing capacity backed up by the plants growing in it, creating an intimate pleasant atmosphere, in which the air is filtered, providing a cleaner environment to be in.

This adaptable space rethinks design as a collecting and evolving activity that can be shared between the members/builders.’

modular growing space design

The space was an organic structure that took shape throughout the six days that the event ran for, with both a team from UAL and Green Lab helping to build the space, add plants and technology and engage the public to help the environment grow and expand. The project was a place to learn about the possibilities of growing in whatever space you have available to you, highlighting the options to grow within the city with just a bit of creativity and experimentation.

The project also highlighted the ability to find usable materials from your surroundings, collecting local unwanted materials from businesses to build and grow in. With the combination of low tech and high tech the project successfully planted the beginning of an edible garden with minimal cost and maximum imagination.

Providing seedlings and plants from the lab the space soon became a green jungle of intrigue, with chilli’s and microgreens provided by lab resident Silly Greens being grown in recycled plastic bottles and coffee cups.

The smart system also combined a Blynk dashboard and Arduino to keep track of the air quality, humidity, light and temperature of the growing space.

Blynk dashboard and arduino

While the concern for the future of our growing systems increases it is easy to focus on the large long term struggles we will face trying to feed the planet globally, while forgetting the small change you can make yourself, even if you lack outside space, with bit of versatility you can grow small amounts with an adaptable modular system right at home.

To highlight this our resident hydroponics designer, Ed the urban researcher, held an interactive workshop showing just how easy it is to create a small scale hydroponics system with a bucket, some ventilation ducting and a water pump.

Hydroponic bucket system

If you want to learn more about the projects we explore at the lab and how you can adapt your living space to house some simple small scale growing systems at a low cost come along to our #openhouse events or sign up for an aquaponics workshop.

The video below captures the space and the various projects that the public could interact with. To find out more about the different work exhibited head to Arts Work of the Future.

Microbial Circus tour – Pop up bacteria bar at Green Lab with Edible Alchemy

Green Lab will be hosting a pop up bacteria bar – Microbial Circus Tour – with Edible Alchemy on Tuesday 20th March.

Bacteria Baristas Alexis Goertz & Natalie Elizabeth will be running the evening with some Kombucha from our resident fermentation specialist Jon Katona.

Join us on from 6.30pm for a colourful and wonderful gastronomic experience as we explore the world of bacteria and healthier living.

Learn how probiotics can help you boost your health, improve digestion and your gut while enjoying the amazing flavors of natural probiotic foods. We’ll give you a real insight into how these bacteria can help you live a far more healthier lifestyle. There will tasting sessions throughout the evening across a eclectic mix of food types – one for food adventurers, explorers and curious foodies.

Alexis Goertz & Natalie Elizabeth &

Bacteria Baristas – Alexis Goertz & Natalie Elizabeth

Passionate DIY fermentation-foodies, who have been creating foods, drinks and events as Edible Alchemy 2013. We have traveled the world, collecting rare probiotic cultures, and sampling local fermented delicacies, while honing our craft. The bacterial succession spreads the Edible Alchemy headquarters over two continents – Europe, based in Berlin with Alexis, and North America, based in Winnipeg with Natalie – https://ediblealchemy.co/

Tickets are £25 per person.

Food Futures – The Calthorpe Project

On Saturday 17th March our friends from the Institute of Making at Slade, UCL will be hosting a 1 day workshop with the Calthorpe Project. To learn more about food production, sustainability and closing the energy loop register for your free ticket.

Throughout this wonderland of food activities you will be introduced to growing in anti-gravity conditions and concoct your own veggie sausages, using ingredients harvested from the Calthorpe Project.

More info:

‘A one-day hands-on workshop with academics and artists from the Slade School of Art, UCL on the theme of food production, sustainability and closing the energy loop. You will have the opportunity to join an experiment to test a hydroponic plant machine, originally devised by NASA and make your own vegetarian closed loop sausages.

10am – 1pm: Artist Nick Laessing will introduce his Plant Orbiter, a hydroponic machine which tests whether anti-gravity conditions can increase plant growth. His project looks at the future of urban food production, technology and self-sufficiency. You will be invited to plant your choice of edible food plants and herbs for later harvest. Participants can volunteer to become hydroponic gardeners/experimenters during the plants’ growth cycle.

Lunch is provided by the Calthorpe Garden Cafe and includes some of the food grown in the community garden.

2pm – 5pm: Artist Ellie Doney will lead the afternoon’s sausage making workshop, inviting you to choose edible materials grown at the Calthorpe Project to devise, cook and eat closed loop veggie sausages. Using sausage anatomy as a delicious metaphor, we will explore questions about how we eat, what we eat, our bodies, identity and our relationship with our environment. Please bring along an edible ingredient to introduce yourself and add to the sausage pantry.

Nick Laessing is an artist exploring the interfaces of art, technology and eco-crisis. His research project life-systems, addresses how art can confront ecological issues such as food and energy production through speculative technologies that encourage participation and engagement.

Ellie Doney is an artist researcher whose PhD project Food & Transformation travels the borders of human and non-human matter, and asks how we become like the materials we encounter, through cooking and eating with people. Her research unwraps the many layers of properties within matter to find out how we all interrelate.’

Find out more about the Calthorpe Project.

Register for your free ticket.

 

Green Lab #openhouse – Urban Agriculture movement in London, New York & Shanghai

For our first #openhouse of 2018 we welcomed our fellow urban agricultural mavericks into the lab to hear how urban ag is impacting cities and communities around the globe. With urbanisation on the rise and our growing concerns for the current food systems in place we are seeing technology set to play a larger role. With this increasing move from countryside to city our relationships to our food sources are becoming jeopardised and as a result people are turning their hand to growing for themselves, finding unique and smart ways to grow within the city. We heard from our green fingered friends in New York and Shanghai, discussing how our cities are growing for the future and how small change is taking place across the globe.

New York

We heard from Agritecture – an urban agriculture consultancy based in New York and we also spoke to AgTech X, a makers space based in Brooklyn creating opportunities and space for designers and makers to build an urban agriculture community.

Agritecture logo &

Agritecture

Henry Gordon-Smith, Founder of Agritecture, showed us different examples of urban agriculture throughout the city, ranging from low tech community based projects to high tech commercial ventures.

We looked at case studies of these different typologies, focusing on 5 New York based projects:

Battery Park – a community soil based garden

Brooklyn Grange – a commercial rooftop soil-based project

Harlem Grown – a community hybrid

Sky Vegetables – a commercial rooftop hydroponic growing system

Edenworks – a commercial vertical aquaponic growing system.

Each of these examples have varying levels of success and Henry discussed the urban agriculture impact categories that they measure projects against – looking at success more holistically and how it impacts not only on an economic level. The categories we looked at are:

Aesthetics – does it attract people? Is it an enjoyable experience?

Social – does the farm engage the community? does it improve food justice and equality?

Economic – How much yield does the farm producer? does it create jobs and revenue?

Ecological – does it encourage biodiversity? does it help to manage rain and storm water

Health – Is it providing fresh food for those that need it? Is it providing stress relief and a sanctuary from urban living?

It was a comforting insight to hear that not everyone measures success on ‘growth’ and that sometimes the project with the most impact are not the most economically minded.

The discussion of low tech versus high tech urban farming was another interesting point. With many people joining the urban agriculture movement keen to use high tech smart methods, such as hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics, soil based farming can often be overlooked, despite it’s many benefits. Whilst high tech farming and controlled growing environments can result in food security and utilise precious space these methods take time to perfect and the energy consumption can be huge. They also may not provide the local community with sometimes much needed jobs and the biodiversity we all need to bring back to our cities.

See Henry’s presentation here.

AgTech X logo &

AgTech X

We also heard from Ricky Stephens, co-founder of AgTech X, a co-working space focused on the intersection of urban agriculture, technology and sustainability. Based in Brooklyn, AgTech X is creating a working community space that also runs classes and workshop for the public to engage with. As we are finding with Green Lab it is becoming increasingly important for these spaces to exist, not only as a space for play, test and experiment with new ideas, but also to create a dialogue between the local community and those working and growing within the city. Green Lab and AgTech X are facing similar hurdles in sustaining this concept, looking for a permanent space where the ideas can grow and for that all important funding to sustain the project.

Shanghai

Domosfarms vertical green wall &

We also heard from Andy Garcia – a product design engineer and founder of Domosfarms – based in Shanghai.

Whilst New York has been a big player in the urban agriculture scene from the beginning we hadn’t heard much in the way of China’s involvement and Andy gave us an interesting insight into the urban ag community developing in shanghai and also the general agricultural issues that China is currently facing.

When Andy first moved to shanghai 8 months ago he found that he not only couldn’t drink the tap water but he couldn’t cook with it due to the heavy metals found in the water. These heavy metals are a result of china’s mining and processing industries. These metals cant be filtered by the body, resulting in an increased chance of cancer and disease when consumed. Not only are these heavy metals found within the water systems but also within the food grown and produced.

With this concern Andy was keen to start producing his own food and he started to build his first hydroponics system. With the success of his first system he garnered interest from others keen to produce their own food and is now in the process of creating two open source projects for those wishing to build their own hydroponic systems and produce their own food.

China came quite late to the urban agriculture movement, with neighboring countries of Japan and Korea way ahead of them. this was partly due to their large agriculture industry producing plenty of food but in recent years, with increased urbanisation and fears of both food security and food safety the need to explore urban agriculture has increased.

The safety of the food produced has come into question, with the entire food system now possibly contaminated from China’s industries people are now demanding safer food.
Sunqiao Urban Agricultural district &amp

China is addressing this problem by investing in land all over the world, having brought areas in Africa, America and Australia. They are also looking to architectural developments to solve their problems with a current project being built on the outskirts of Shanghai. Sunqiao Urban Agricultural District is being developed to include vertical farming systems such as hydroponics and aquaculture, whilst also providing research and public outreach to the community.

Our next #openhouse will be on Thursday 22nd February, make sure you sign up here.

 

Green Lab Kombucha

Jon Katona, Green Labs resident Kombucha specialist is now fermenting and brewing his own Kombucha here in the lab.

Kombucha is raw fermented tea. The sugar-tea solution is fermented by bacteria and yeast commonly known as SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast). Although its usually made with black tea, Kombucha can also be made with many other types of tea, or even coffee. These ingredients are left to ferment in a warm environment for a period of time, becoming a delicious, refreshing, nutrient dense drink.

Green Lab has been brewing its own Kombucha for the past 6 months and we’re keen to share how simple and straight forward it can be to ferment your own strain of tea and get creative with flavouring.

Fermentation

With the increasing concern with our own bacteria and maintaining a healthy gut Kombucha has grown in popularity. Fermenting foods in order to keeps stores during the winter is an age old technique and along the way our ancestors discovered that this technique also aided their health. In more recent years and our reliance on a fridge/freezer the need to ferment and preserve our fresh food in the same way lessened. With this we not only lost an understanding of seasons but we neglected our gut health. We are now starting to re-appreciate how vital a varied diet with the addition of fermented foods can be, with many seeking out easy pro-biotic boosts such as Kombucha.

fermenting Kombucha &

Health benefits

The health benefits from fermented foods are plentiful from help with nutrient absorption, vitamin synthesis, breaking down proteins, alkalizing pH, restoring homeostasis, boosting immunity, and producing immunoglobulins. The process enables the nutrients to be more easily absorbed by our bodies, allowing us to work less and benefit more.

workshops:

We hosted our first workshop last weekend at the lab. The event started with a tasting session, trying some punchy freshly brewed Kombucha and raspberry puree before diving into the deep end, learning about the drinks restorative, detoxifying and adaptive properties. Their were tastings of live ‘booch’ through the different fermentation stages, which gave the class a sense of the flavour evolution throughout the process – from sweet to tart as the brew matures, right through to extremely potent and versatile Kombucha vinegar. They tasted bottle-aged Kombucha flavoured with ingredients from fiery chilli, sasperilla root, rosemary and schizandra berry. Everyone was then given a SCOBY starter kit to start brewing their own concoctions at home as well as some of their own personally flavoured brew.

Green Lab Kombucha station &

If you are interested to learn more about Kombucha and how easy it can be to make yourself, sign up to one our workshops to kick start your fermentation journey.

Jon will be hosting  his next Kombucha workshop here at the lab – ‘learn to ferment and make your own Kombucha at Green Lab’ on Saturday 27th January, buy tickets here.

He will also be hosting ‘Learn to brew Kombucha with Green Lab’ at Makerversity as part of their Material Explorations program. For the third part of the series they are presenting Pharma Foods, exploring the world of synthetic biology and discussing how our eating  habits are set to change. With progress into lab grown food, and ethical decisions, Kombucha represents how our search for health can also look to the past.

‘Learn to brew Kombucha with Green Lab’ will be held at Makerversity, Somerset House on Saturday 10th February, buy tickets here.

Grow Wild 2018 – Community Funding Opportunities

Grow Wild is the UK’s biggest wild flower planting initiative brought to us by Kew Gardens. As we grow more concerned with the future of our wildlife and our fragile ecosystems in danger of being disrupted we are finding that small groups of people are fighting back with responses as simple as planting native flowers and encouraging wildlife back into their gardens.

Grow Wild is encouraging communities to take back their green spaces and spread wild flower seeds. Having lost 97% of our wild flower fields since 1970 this initiative is extremely important in protecting our natural spaces.

As part of the initiative Grow Wild has now launched their community funding opportunities for more people to get involved, find out more below.

HOW CAN YOU TAKE PART

‘Grow Wild, is excited to launch our new community project funding for 2018. We are awarding funding of £2,000 or £4,000 to community groups that want to bring people together through activities that connect their community and celebrate UK native wild flowers, plants and/or fungi.

Do you have an interesting idea for involving your group or local community in a project. Will it capture people’s attention and connect everybody through activities focused on the creative transformation of an area where they live and spend time? Click here to read all about the funding opportunity. Make sure you download the guidance document and read it fully. It tells you everything you need to know about who can apply, the criteria for funding and the process for completing an application.

Grow Wild is here to help and advise groups along the way. We have dedicated Engagement Managers working across the UK to help guide your thinking and develop your project idea. Contact information can be found in the guidance document.’

Application closing date – 15 January 2018.

We will be working on our own submission over the next few weeks for the Lab and looking forward to seeing all the great ideas put forward!

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