Good Energy is collaborating with award-winning environmental photographer Toby Smith to produce a series of photo-essays visualising climate change in the UK. Toby will be focusing on the changes and challenges of land-use but also cultural and technology innovations in sustainability around the South West of England.
Bristol has long been synonymous with the Green Movement, and in 2015 was the first city in the UK to be awarded European Green Capital status for its “progressive, creative and conscious approach to urban living”. With over 1500 parks and green spaces occupying an area of at least 2,200 hectares – it is the perfect place to visually explore the intersection of community, food production and innovation.
Bridge Farm Bristol dates back to the eighteenth century. The windows of an elegant farmhouse once watched over a sleepy toll-bridge on the River Frome, now replaced by the incessant roar of the M32 and all wrapped tightly in suburban housing and industrial units.
Under the stewardship of the Ashley Vale Action Group (AVAG), the historic buildings and farmland are being converted to workspaces, community-led housing and a restored open growing space for food. Over time the pasture has become overgrown with brambles and ivy which has become a natural home to a herd of ‘Street Goats’.
This urban goat farming cooperative aims to connect communities to sustainable food production and offer affordable regenerative land management. The golden guernsey crossbreeds are reared locally on overgrown allotments, nature reserves, and brownfield sites, encouraging a wider diversity of wildflower to grow in the spring.
The scheme works in partnership with the local council, reducing maintenance costs and inspiring an overwhelmingly positive response from residents with lasting education and mental health benefits.
Sims Hill Shared Harvest
Two miles to the north-west, Sims Hill Shared Harvest is a pioneering social enterprise growing food for the people of Bristol. It is a community-supported-agriculture scheme (CSA) with a genuine partnership between its growers and consumers. Natural, chemical free methods and permaculture principles are used to produce high quality seasonal vegetables with a little help from polytunnels and a vintage tractor.
Like Street Goat, there is more local interest in the project and its produce than the finite land and small team can meet. The enterprise is member-owned and cooperatively run with regular engagement events and volunteering opportunities that make maximum positive use of the space and can reach even further than their popular veg box scheme.
Sims Hills share a 35-year council lease with Grow Wilder, a project by the Avon Wildlife Trust that focuses on the restoration of wildlife by educating and empowering people, communities, and businesses to bring about positive change.
Grow Wilder is home to the Trust’s nursery offering wildflowers to help promote a nature-rich garden, community project or landscaping scheme.
Both Sims Hill and Grow Wilder demonstrate how urban farming can nourish and educate a community far more than it has the capacity to directly feed.
LettUs Grow maximise space and resources using cutting edge technology to grow certain plant species at incredible speeds. Founded by University of Bristol alumni Charlie Guy, Jack Farmer and Ben Crowther in 2015, this business now consists of a team of growers, engineers, plant scientists and software developers who all care deeply about food and the environment. Identifying as a technology provider, rather than a food producer, LettUs Grow design and build aeroponic technology and software systems for indoor and vertical farms. They hope to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of food through growing specific crops in a highly controlled environment.
Aeroponics is a method of growing plants without soil. Instead, roots are suspended in the air and irrigated with a nutrient-dense mist; differing from hydroponic systems where plant roots are submerged in a body of water and nutrients.
Every single environmental factor and input is carefully calibrated, measured, tested, and controlled; including the CO2 levels, humidity, temperature, nutrients, pH balance and intensity of the artificial light – provided by banks of bright LEDS and renewable energy. The entire system has been developed to fit within a standard shipping container – enabling rapid, scalable transportation and installation anywhere in the world.